During my ‘honeymoon’ with God (about 16-19yrs.), I eagerly sought after holiness. It felt right. It felt as if it was the natural direction I should travel in light of my fervent relationship with God. I was doing well – I was becomeing ‘set apart’, and the change didn’t bother me because I was becoming ‘different’ from everyone else, which is exactly what I wanted at that age.
As I grew older, I met a friend who challenged my pursuit of holiness by the way he lived his life. He knew God deeply, but it was as if he didn’t ‘pretend’ to be Godly – he openly embraced his humanity in the way he lived. He wasn’t afraid or ashamed of cursing, being angry with people, or even expressing that anger. This fascinated me – it presented me with a moral challenge: Was it okay to be both ‘human’ and pursuing holiness at the same time?
The downside to my friend’s ways was that he could be very abrasive and selfish, even unpredictable. It was the freedom he seemed to enjoy that was so interesting, though, rather than caring or meek demeanour. Overall, he simply stood out. He was different, and that was intriguing.
His way challenged me because I had been through a difficult journey in learning to properly manage my emotions, and training myself to walk in love. For example, when someone angered me, I looked for a way to see God in them in order to change my point-of-view. That was, I believed, the best way to deal with my anger in my pursuit of holiness. I had been developing little habits like this over a period of a few years by the time I met this friend.
To me, this challenge represented a far deeper question than “is it okay for Christians to be angry?” etc. It was a question of holiness vs human-ness. It raised questions in my mind like “If God made us human, why do we try to be like God?”, and “Does God expect us to suppress our human nature?”
After all, it’s far more ‘natural’ for us to NOT try and suppress our emotions. Some would say that that’s a good description of what religion does to people who follow it: convert them into emotion-less zombies. But those of us who have followed The Way know that the opposite is true: that God does change us, but not into zombies. He changes us into the people we were meant to be, which can be described any way but “emotionless”.
The problem lies in what we mean by the word ‘natural’. After all, what is natural? Surely an authentic ‘human nature’ is to embrace our human-ness — in all its emotion, brokenness and pain along with its beauty, creativity and joy. We all know life is a mixed bag. It’s neither all good, nor is it all bad. It is just human. I believe that’s true—that our human nature should be embraced. We should pursue the truth in who we are, and most of all, we shouldn’t try to be something we’re not. Authenticity, in this case, is paramount. It is the holy grail of this discussion.
What does this mean for all our Christian niceties? The way we watch Veggietales instead of Die Hard, and wear NOTW shirts instead of the latest in Wu-Wear? If you ask me, we have become a religious nation of pansies. We’re afraid to shake the boat. It’s easier to live in our little bubble and think that anger and rock music are from the devil. But this isn’t what Jesus modeled for us.
Actually, what we believe today is ‘human nature’ is only a variant of the true original. We were meant to rule the land in peace, but still to rule. We were designed to live forever, rather than decay and die. We were designed, in fact, “in His likeness” — to be like God, because this is what pleased Him. God gets angry, but He can — He’s the judge. We are not. It’s true that it’s in our current nature to get angry, for example, but is it not justified. In our original nature—when we were created and uncompromised—we were perfect, like Him. We walked with Him, in peace and in worship. In His glory, all the time.
Our ‘human nature’, as we know it today, is not the same as what God intended us to be. Our original nature was as royal citizens of The Kingdom – Royal Emmissaries. If Jesus’ and our mission is to bring the Kingdom to Earth, then we must recognise that His Kingdom needs to be brought here – it isn’t here yet. Earth is not like The Kingdom, yet. If it was, God wouldn’t have given us that Great Prayer for it.
There is another ‘human nature’ we are responsible to seek and embrace – it is that original nature of peace, walking with Him, in His glory and presence. Because things are different now, we only see a messy variant of this true nature. The only way for us to rediscover this original human nature is to become re-acquanited with its original Designer.
We must not fall into the trap of humanism, of subjectivity or of relevance. Our human nature now is not what is the best for us. It is not the original design. We were told to pursue the original design and to let the former nature perish.
Perhaps the first and foremost way in which us followers of The Way can realise that great prayer is to usher in His Kingdom here, on Earth, as it is in Heaven, by inviting the original Designer to mould our own human nature into the beautiful thing it was meant to be, in His likeness.