From CtK Member, Paul Hanson
What are people like? Are people basically good? Or are we bad to the bone? And how does it work, going from bad to good? What can be seen on the exterior versus what is going on inside a person? Doing the right thing is good, right? But what if you do it for selfish reasons or don't want to do it in the first place? Are you good?
We are complicated on the inside, and Luther knew this. When he was asked if humans are good or bad, he answered: “Yes." But we are not good OR bad. According to Luther, humans are good AND bad. Righteous AND unrighteous. Sinner AND saint. At the exact same time. Every moment.
In the new movie “Wonder Woman,” Diana Prince undergoes a transformation. She is not human; she’s a goddess (relax, it’s a comic book movie). To protect humanity from itself, she tries to understand how people are. Experiences show Diana that people are complicated, that war is not easily ended, but that self-sacrificing love is also impossible to snuff out.
“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know, that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.”
Darkness, living within our light. That’s a pretty good description. Luther said we are always saints, and at the same time sinners. Not just sinners in the sense of “we could have done better”—but we are real, nasty, to-the-core sinners who have done bad, enjoyed it, and are looking for a chance to do it again.
Wonder Woman, and many others, have come to the conclusion that good or bad is “a choice each must make for [our]selves.” There’s where Luther disagrees. Luther knew that sin runs deeper than “making bad choices.” Just as righteousness is higher than “getting it right.” Luther taught that we are not made right by ourselves, our choices, our thoughts, or even our prayers. We are made good because of Christ, and his goodness.
When you were baptized, you were made good, by Christ, for all time. That didn’t snuff out the bad in you. Unfortunately, sin won’t let go until you breathe your last. You live your life being both good and bad, sinner and saint. Always in need of the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. That love and mercy is always yours. Believe it. So the task isn’t to go from bad to good. (You can’t. And Christ already made that true.) The task is to love your neighbor. And to rely on God’s mercy when you fall short.
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