Matthew Fox wrote that the promulgation of the doctrine of original sin ‘introduces an attitude of self-doubt and lack of reverence for self and one’s beauty that is thoroughly the opposite of Jewish consciousness’.
I think these words hold a great truth.
Jesus told his followers that the greatest commandment is to love God and your neighbour as yourself. If we are created in the image of God, we have an abundance of beauty and goodness to be thankful for in God, in others and in ourselves. And yet the majority of people probably live with feelings of ineptitude, dark burdens of their own ugliness’s, character flaws, personality hang-ups and short-comings, etc., etc. When we walk around in this mire of deep seated doubt and dislike it is no wonder that we don’t have the oomph to bounce back and say hang-on I’m better and bigger than all this negativity about myself. Our springboard for bouncing back is as someone put it, the reality that we are blessed with an original blessing, the blessing of having been made in the image of God; created and endowed with God’s goodness and gifts of life at our very core. Original sin came after our creation and original blessing. It did not blot us out or expel the life of God in us. Sin or selfish living or a lack of love, however you wish to describe sin, threatens to destabilize us and cause great harm to us and others, but it cannot obliterate God’s spirit that gives us life. Without God’s spirit we would be more than dead, we’d be non-existent, ‘uncreated’. Sin harms us and will undermine our belief in God’s amazing goodness and gift of life to us and all around us.
Maybe we sometimes mistakenly attribute this ability of goodness and spirit of life to ourselves instead of to God and we build a false image of our own ‘goodness’ and aptitude into what has no foundation and when we try to respond to a challenge positively, we find we don’t have the strength or resilience we thought we possessed. However, when we remember that all that is good comes from God and is available to us for the good of all, we are far more able to muster the ability to bounce back and carry on. We need to remember who we are in the eyes of God and take comfort and encouragement from that.
Maybe this is why we also fall into the trap of thinking we are better than others instead of as being all affiliated and donned with the same paintbrush, though just in a variety of strokes and colours. That it is thanks to God’s gifts that we are blessed and not that of ourselves. Without his essence we would not be, with his essence we celebrate together our common heritage and bond with God, whilst expressing his essence uniquely and very differently in our diverse lives.
You know how identical twins can be incredibly in tune with one another? This is the way we should be relating to one another, never mind who or where that person might be – in China or Africa, or anywhere else in the world. We are akin by virtue of God’s breath or spirit within us and not to be at one with one another in spirit and in truth, should be unthinkable, untenable, and impossible.
For Christians or people of any other faith, to not take responsibility for how we relate to and with the gift of God within us or within another person, is to shirk the life God has given us. Even to believe that all we have to do as a Christian for example, is to believe that Jesus died in our stead and then sit back and do nothing about doing with our lives what Jesus did with his. Believing that we are now ‘saved’ and not attempting to live lives of love and goodwill towards everyone, not least of all our “enemies” and being unprepared to be killed for another person’s rights for instance, is a cop-out, an abdication of God’s inbuilt resources to become fully mature and operational as individuals of one big family.
Most parents encourage their children to believe in themselves and their abilities. “Come on you can do it. Take another step, say another word, do it again! That’s great!” We tell them that we love them, that we think they are so clever to do the things they do, that they are so kind to love and share their toys, that they are so beautiful – inwardly and outwardly, that they have grown so big and strong, that they have really done good in their various activities, studies, relationships, etc. We want them to feel good about themselves, to feel confident about themselves and their innate goodness and ability to cope in life and to lead happy lives. We know from experience how hard life can be and how often we are knocked down and how we need to constantly get up and carry on. Is it not imperative that we constantly remind ourselves and them, that everything good comes from God and how much better all our lives will be as we recognize this and constantly strive to expand and extend his gift of goodness and life in our own lives – and encourage and equip others as much as we can, to do the same in their God-given lives?
Just one example to bring home what I’m saying about our responsibility to live actively and not passively as God’s creation is when we have hurt someone. It is much easier to ask God to forgive me and to help me, than it is to go to the person myself and without reservation ask for her forgiveness and help in us working together towards a more harmonious relationship. It may be easier to ask God to forgive us than to take up Jesus’ challenge and to go and do likewise in loving and forgiving our kin and recognizing that even our enemies are our family dressed up in the dragon costumes we clothe them in!
“Lord there is never a moment I do not need air to survive. There isn’t a moment my spirit can survive without your spirit, love and energy, whether I am aware of this or not. Forgive me for so often being unaware of your loving presence and help. Help me to see you in every moment of my life, in life around me and in the moments of every other person’s life. Help me to remember my first gift from you is the best gift and is more powerful than and redeeming than any sin I may commit.”