Recently, I heard someone suggest that our default as human beings is selfishness. A few years ago I wouldn’t have given that a second thought and accepted it as a given, but these days comments like that start to fill in the patterns on my rotating kaleidoscope. This one in particular reminds me that how we view our default state has a lot to do with where we begin in our Story—and that, too often, we don’t realize we are starting in the wrong place.
A few years back, I read “What is the Gospel?” by Scot McKnight in which he posits that our understanding of the Gospel is affected by (among other things) where we begin the gospel story. Do we begin it with the Fall—or do we go back to Creation? Because it makes a difference. It shapes our theology, our worldview and how we see God, ourselves and others.
When we begin at the beginning of the Story with Creation, we humans are good and whole. This is, so to speak, our default state. Then we are broken, our original or “default” state “cracked” (as McKnight puts it)—somewhat like malware corrupting our original programming or cancer infecting our bodies.
But if we look at those around us, we can still see our original or default state in each other—our capacity to love and do what it is in the best interest of another instead of ourselves, our desire to worship and praise something, our longing for wholeness, our sense of injustice and right-ness—the list goes on. These are remnants or reflections of our original creation in the image of the One who created us.
Yet this isn’t enough. God doesn’t want us living a broken life with only remnants of our whole and good creation—a state that, left on its own, ends in misery and death. Instead, God works relentlessly through time and in Jesus opens the door to us to become the creations were originally intended to be.
Or, as McKnight puts it:
The gospel, when it begins with Creation, is God’s work to restore and undo and recreate (whatever image you might prefer) what we were designed by God to be and to do. To begin here means the gospel is about restoring Eikons rather than just forgiving sinners. This gospel is bigger and it is bigger because the human condition is bigger than a Fallen condition.“…bigger than a Fallen condition.” I love that.
And I also love McKnight’s call to remember that this redeeming, restoring, undoing and recreation is bigger than an individualistic salvation—God’s work is not only about us and our reconnection to him, but the restoration and reconnection of our relationships with each other and the world. And it reminds me too that the reality of myself as a recreated and new creature is bigger than my perception. As Dan Stone puts it, I may not feel or look like a new or recreated creature but I am—and so are my brothers and sisters in Christ. And if we work with God, his truth about who we are will become our experience.
I get where the person who made the comment about selfishness is coming from, but I’m learning that how we think about our “default” state makes a difference. I agree with McKnight—we need to be careful where we begin the Story, because it will determine how we see God, ourselves and those around us. It is often one of the things that makes the difference between living small and living large—and, oh Lord, let us all live large.