#83 Made for Goodness
Even though God made us in His image, sin and death can make that hard to see. The challenge of the spiritual life is to break free of the passions that pull us into sin, and instead choose God and good things. The challenge is to heal our hearts, and reveal the image of God in us, so we can become the saints God made us to be.
1) Why do we carry the sin of Adam and Eve?
2) When is the sin of Adam and Eve taken away from us?
3) Why is repentance important?
Hey everybody, this is Steve and God created everyone and everything to be good. In the Church, we hear a lot about the passions, which, as we've discussed before, are the broken desires that pull us into sin. Desire for food that pulls us into glutton, desire for pleasure that pulls us into lust, desire for comfort that pulls us into laziness. Part of the struggle of the spiritual life is to free ourselves from the passions. Though that doesn't mean that our goal is to not have any desire at all, to have no interest in anything outside of ourselves. Instead, our goal is to transform our desire for bad things into desire for good things, to re-orient ourselves, to repent, to turn our desire back to God and the good things He's given us. To better understand that, let's go back to the beginning, to see what it means to be good. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were the pinnacle of His creation. Full of beauty and virtue and love.
But God wanted them to choose these good things freely. So they would come to know God more deeply, not because they were forced to, but because they wanted to. Because they freely directed their desire back towards God and His Kingdom rather than towards sin and death. So, He gave them an opportunity to freely choose by giving them one small commandment, one simple rule that, if obeyed, could be left behind and transcended as they freely chose love and knowledge of God. But, as you probably know, Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and believed the lies he told them. The lie that if they ate the fruit, they would become like God. So Adam and Eve's desires shifted from God to something else. Instead of choosing God's actual love and goodness, instead of drawing closer to Him, they chose the Earthly and temporary satisfaction of eating the fruit which seemed good. This perceived goodness which somehow would make them like God, without God.
They replaced the real goodness of God with a sort of false and twisted version of goodness that was actually full of death. And this is the broken human nature we've inherited from Adam and Eve which is why we often confuse real goodness with false replacements. It's why we often use our ability to love, to grow in knowledge, to desire God for twisted and well, not so good purposes. Despite all this, the goodness of God hasn't left us. We haven't somehow become some other kind of creature. We're still made in image of God. And the powers of our minds and hearts are still meant to draw us closer to God rather than be distorted into sinful passions that draw us away. It's like if I take this piece of paper and cut out a heart. If I take this heart and I twist it and crumple it, it becomes, well, kind of like trash. But the perfect heart isn't gone. I didn't cut it into a different shape. All it takes is a little unfolding, some gentle smoothing, a little care and ouala, the heart.
Now, restoring us to goodness is a little more complicated than unfolding a paper heart. It's the lifelong process of uniting ourselves to Christ. But no matter how overcome we are by sin or addiction or the passions, no matter how hopeless our lives may appear, one simple fact remains true. We remain good at our core, created by God for goodness and life rather than sin and death. No matter how deformed and twisted we may be by sin, our Creator can still restore us to our original form. And here's the amazing part. That means that evil has no real power over us. Sin, destruction, darkness, evil, these all exist in a sort of parasitic way, as the devil leads us from what is actually good and towards what he tricks us into thinking is good. Because the only way evil ever seems to be attractive is when it pretends to be good.
In his famous book, "Mere Christianity", C.S. Lewis puts it this way, "Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way.."Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled." It's in our nature to want goodness, to pursue love. And even in our twisted and deformed sinful states, we simply pursue false goodness and selfish love. As theologian Panayiotis Nellas says "A person who lives with the passions, precisely because the bodily passions seek material things in order to be satisfied, ends up regarding material things as the source of life and replaces God with them." If we look at our passions and struggles with the eyes of a bee, we'll see that they're the result of the obscured image of God in us. And when we act from that inner brokenness and obscured image, we tend to move towards apparent goods rather than actual goods. The very things that in our brokenness become destructive passions are actually tools God has given us to grow closer to Him.
So it's not that we have to eradicate anger within us, it's that we have to allow it to be transformed into a zeal for righteousness. We have to allow lust and gluttony to be transformed from a sensual pleasure, into a love of God. We have to allow pride to be transformed into humility when we turn our minds and heart to God instead of putting out faith in our own abilities and thoughts. This is the hard work of repentance, to allow God to unfold our twisted hearts and reveal the natural beauty of being made on God's image. And when our hearts are unfolded, when the image of God is again clearing us, then, we can begin to be perfected in His likeness. We can begin living the life of love for which God intended us. We can begin living like the Saints God made us to be. So let's Be the Bee, and seek the image of God no matter how deeply it's buried in us. Be the Bee, and live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week.
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1. What are Vestments?
2. Why You Matter
3. Talents and Temptations