Us humans are a strange and complex bunch of creatures. We try and do a bit of good but, no matter how good our intentions or how hard we try, we are so easily sucked into choosing the selfish path.
There is a brilliant exploration of the state of the human being in Tolstoy’s The Resurrection. The world of Dmitri Nekhlyudov (10 points if you can pronounce his name correctly!) is turned upside down when he ends up on the jury in a courtroom where a woman he had previously taken advantage of and then abandoned is on trial for murder. The story charts Nekhlyudov’s gradual and painful journey away from his existence as a self absorbed aristocrat.
Tolstoy captures the essence of the internal struggle:
“Nekhlyudov, like all people, consisted of two persons. One was spiritual, seeking benefit for himself only if it would be a benefit to others; the other was animal, seeking benefit only for himself, and for that benefit prepared to sacrifice a whole world of benefit to others.”
How often do we have pure motives and desire what will ‘be a benefit to others’ yet end up sacrificing the well being of other people, even those we love, for our own sake? In the Bible Paul shares his own painful experience of this:
“I want to do what is good but I can’t. I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do. I do what I don’t want to do…..what a terrible failure I am!”
I suspect this is a dilemma that many can relate to and it is something that we would love to be saved from. In my experience there is a way to move from the selfish ‘animal’ to more of the selfless ‘spiritual’. Paul asks the question – “Who will save me from this sin that brings death to my body!?” Then gives the answer – “I give thanks to God. He will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The only way to be saved from putting yourself before others is to identify with Jesus Christ who blew this selfish mentality of the human out of the water by sacrificing himself to bring a whole world of benefit to others. It’s worth bearing that in mind this Easter time…