The other day I came across a beautiful poem called “God Would Kneel Down” by St. Francis of Assisi. What struck me about this poem was the reverence with which the author speaks of both God and humanity.
Here it is:
GOD WOULD KNEEL DOWN by St. Francis of Assisi
I think God might be a little prejudiced.
For once He asked me to join Him on a walk
through this world,
and we gazed into every heart on this earth,
and I noticed He lingered a bit longer
before any face that was
and before any eyes that were
And sometimes when we passed
a soul in worship
God too would kneel
I have come to learn: God
This poem was so refreshing to me because I felt like it captured the essence of “Emmanuel” or “God with us.”
Sometimes it seems that we Christians are afraid to celebrate God’s love for us, for fear of looking arrogant or entitled. Perhaps as a result of Augustine’s emphasis on depravity, we have learned to live with the notion that, because of our sin, human beings are disgusting and despicable to God, that we are rotten to the core.
In fact, I’ve often found myself marveling at the good and wonderful things that people will do for one another, only to suddenly feel guilty for thinking positively about the human spirit.
I recently flipped though Doug Pagitt’s book A Christianity Worth Believing, and this paragraph caught my eye:
“God loves this world and all who are in it. God not only loves humanity but created humanity as the ideal partner for bringing about all that God desires for the world. We are not working against our lesser nature when we seek to live with God; on the contrary, we are living as we were created. The joy of this proper understanding is that we no longer have to feel ashamed of our humanity. It is not a sin to be alive.”
Pagitt seems to think that Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden did not change the basic makeup of humanity, but rather ruptured our relationship with God and with one another. These relationships can be restored and redeemed, despite the persistence of our sin…and that is what you call “the good news.”
Pagitt gets a lot of flack for his position on theological issues, but I have to admit that I think he is on to something. I’m not sure that I would agree that human beings are inherently godly, but I’m not convinced that they are 100 percent evil either.
Is there some way to strike a blance here?
While King David and Paul and just about every biblical writer speaks extensively about the profound effects of sin on our lives, there’s not as much Scriptural support as you might think for the notion of “total depravity” as is often explained by Christians. It might be more appropriate to explain “total depravity” as a way of describing the fact that every part of our lives is touched by sin, rather than implying that “total depravity” means we are totally evil people.
I’ve always found it curious that Christians so passionately defend the sanctity of life, when so many seem to think that human beings are, by their very nature, an affront to God. As Pagitt points out, we don’t walk down the halls of the baby delivery unit at a hospital thinking, “what a despicable place, bringing a bunch of despicable crap into the world.”
No, we honor and revere new life because we know all people are created in the image of God and are…dare I say…worthy of being loved by Him and by us.
Someone once told me that he didn’t feel especially judgmental of the Hutus who killed the Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide, because the people who committed the atrocities were “no different than you in me.” Given our sin nature, he said, we should all recognize that we would most likely have done the same thing in that situation. Given our sin nature, we too would have picked up our machetes and hacked our neighbors to pieces.
I suppose that’s true to a point…but what about the Hutus who died protecting their neighbors or standing up to the killers? Were they just strange anomalies? And what about the fact that I’d like to believe I could do better, that I'd like to believe I would have done the right thing? Am I just delusional about my own capacity for goodness? What are the implications for the church and for the world if we set such low expectation for ourselves and for others?
What do you think? Are humans inherently good (but in need of a repaired relationship with God) or inherently evil (and incapable of doing any good on their own)? I honestly don’t know the answer to this question.
…But I've got this nagging and relentless hope that God indeed "adores His creation."