By Rob Wilson
In my last post I asked the questions “Why is there such racial and cultural division in our country, and why are we seeing so much hate and bloodshed?” We looked at the commonly held belief that something must be wrong in the environment in which these “persons of hate” grew up in. In other words, the blame rests fully on flaws in our country’s culture and societal institutions. This widely held belief is based upon the premise that people are naturally good. Yet, this premise is the exact opposite of what the Bible says is true of mankind. The Bible clearly states that every person is born with an evil (sinful) heart; that the source of the evil that we see around us is the human heart! (Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9) So why do the so called experts disagree with this fundamental Biblical truth about the human heart? Why do most of us automatically consider ourselves to be good people? The answer brings us to the second major reason for racism, division, and hate- we are all born blind to the true condition of our own hearts!
It is human nature to be blind about the sinfulness of our own motives and behavior. I am not talking here about physical blindness, but rather the unconscious or willful failure to recognize sin in our own life (we seem to be good at recognizing others sin, just not our own!). There are multiple reasons for this blindness, a common one is pride. We want to be right! So much so, that pride begins to take precedence over truth. For instance, how many of us when faced with an issue of which we know something about from past experience, automatically assume that our opinion or position is right? (I would say most of us, until we have experienced enough situations in which we have made a fool of ourselves from making this assumption.)
Another common reason for our blindness to matters of our heart and to the truth of the world around us, is that it is in our nature to be quick to make assumptions (part of the sin nature we discussed in the previous blog post). Pride may motivate us to make assumptions, but often laziness does too. For example, how often are we quick to automatically assume that what my father says, or pastor says, or what my group of friends say, or the position held by the political party I am a part of, or the position held by a leader of the cultural group I identify with, is right? Too often we don’t want to take the time or make the effort to look for the truth and check our assumptions. We don’t want to put forth the work this requires and pride doesn’t want to find out that “our position” was wrong, so we just assume. Making assumptions and failing to search for the truth breeds prejudice and fuels conflicts, and is the source of much hate and racism.
BLIND TO SPIRITUAL REALITIES
The matters of the heart, to which we are naturally blind, go far beyond making assumptions. The sin in our hearts to which we are blind is a spiritual matter. So our blindness is a spiritual blindness. In our culture today we tend to focus on our physical bodies and remain oblivious to the fact that we are made up of both body and spirit. Given that we fail to recognize the truth about our own spirit, it is not surprising that that we are likewise blind to the spiritual realties of this world that affect us daily. The apostle Paul writing to Christian believers in the Ephesian church in Ephesians 2:1-3 said that “you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
We see from this passage that there are non-human spiritual powers of evil in this world which we are blind to. The term “ruler of the kingdom of the air” is a term used in the Bible to describe the Devil. Yet, more frightening than the confirmation of the reality of Satan, is the fact that the Bible says that the world follows his ways and that he is at work in those who are disobedient to God! In light of this, should we really be surprised when we see hate, division, and murder arise up among us? The apostle Paul also stated in Ephesian 6:12 that “our struggle in not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The battle that rages every day, that is at the heart of racism, division, hate, and murder, is a spiritual battle in the hearts of men and women! Yet, when faced with our sin we can’t get away with the plea “the devil made me do it.” For as we see in Ephesians 2, we all at one time have a sinful nature, and we live just blindly following the cravings and desires of that nature. The battle is not between us and the devil, it is between us and God (we are on Satan’s side). Before God’s intervention in our lives, we are completely blind to the fact that we are ruled by the desires and cravings of our sin nature, we are pawns used by the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, and we are slaves to our own sin (Romans 6:16-23).
BLIND TO GOD
Of course, if you asked a random man on the street if they were fighting God today, most would think you were crazy! And why is this? We are blind to God! (2 Corinthians 4:4) This was part of the curse inherited from Adam and Eve. It is a cataclysmic problem for us, for the only true remedy for our heart problem is found in knowing God; he is our judge and our savior. But the Bible points out that we are so “blind” or “deceived” about the truth of God and the reality of our sins, that it says we are actually “dead in [our] transgressions and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1-5). True spiritual life is only found in knowing God (John 17:3). Our relationship with God is so dead that we deny that he exists. (As far as I know, racism in this country hasn’t gotten to the point that one people group says the other doesn’t exist!).
And when we finally acknowledge the inkling of a notion within our heart that there must be a God (this notion is within all of our hearts, we just chose to suppress it- Romans 1:18-20), we turn around and worship an idol (choosing a false religion; worshiping another person/ job/ car/ etc., or worshiping a theoretical construct of God of our choosing- not who the Bible says he is.).
This would be analogous to us coming upon Queen Elizabeth walking her dog in her palace garden. When the queen smiles and says hi to us, we ignore her. We act like she is not there, and instead talk to the dog, praising it, thanking it for the nice garden, giving it treats and attention. It would be terribly insulting to the queen, and it is much more insulting to God who created both you and the dog, and who gives you the very ability to take your next breath! (Job 12:10)
BLIND TO GOD’S STANDARD
Yet, God is much more than our creator, he is the ruler and judge over all that is. God is absolutely Holy and even the smallest single sin is loathsome to him. His perfect justice requires that every sin be punished. We are blind to the Holiness of God and we have no clue just how bad our sin problem is! In our mind we may think that we are not that bad, but as stated before, we are spiritually dead. Dead men are oblivious to the fact that their corpse is rotting around them, that their state is horrific and hopeless. Until God opens the eyes of men and women (John 6:44) to see the true condition of their heart, they simply “follow the ways of this world… gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts… by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3) The wrath spoken about is God’s wrath as he justly judges the world. Compared to God’s perfect Holiness our hearts look like rotting corpses and our thoughts and actions are just as insulting to God. And many, many, people live their lives not realizing that there is anything wrong with their hearts and actions! The greatest tragedy facing mankind is much more than racism and murder, it is that every soul who does not undergo true heart change is going to experience the wrath of God in eternal punishment in Hell! (Matthew 25:41-46) And the truth is that we have all greatly rebelled and sinned against God. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It is not just the man whose hateful heart caused him to purposely drive into a crowd of people in Charlottesville, Virginia this summer, whose life is as offensive to God as a rotting corpse; all of our lives look like that to God! If we could just see for a moment, God as he really is, in all of the glory of his Holiness and power, we would immediately fall on our face and as the prophet Isaiah did, and cry “Woe to me” I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5)
And, Isaiah was a prophet and a very good man by our standards! Even one single sin is too much. James 2:10 states that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it!” And sin doesn’t just require actions; God knows and judges your thoughts and motives. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says “I tell you that anyone who looks at a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Also, in that same chapter verses 21-22 he says “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment… anyone who says, ‘You fool,’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” This means that when you burn with hate against a racist man or scream hateful things back at him you are sinning just like he is!
Though we often easily see the sin in other’s lives, we are blind to much of our own sin and this is a big problem because we need God’s forgiveness more than we need anything else in this life! If we don’t know we have a sin problem, we won’t ask God for forgiveness. God is good and merciful and will readily forgive your sin (as we will get to in the next blog post), but you must admit that you have sinned and ask Him for forgiveness, to be forgiven! If you are reading this right now and thinking “I don’t need forgiveness, I’m not that bad”- it is just because you are still blind to your own sin! For 1 John 1:10 states that “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar…”
Unfortunately, evil hearts and spiritual blindness are somethings that we all have in common. Even after our eyes have been opened and our hearts have been changed by the love of Christ, there are still many sins in our hearts which we are blind to. We all need to be diligent in regularly asking God to open our eyes to the sins which we are blind to and to help us remove them from our lives.
The truth about the condition of the human heart would be quite depressing if it was not viewed in light of the truth about God. In the next post, however, we will get to the good news! We will look at God’s amazing solution to racism, hate, and the evil in the human heart!
Why so much Division and Hatred in our Country Part 1