Behaving Decently

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

  • Genesis 3:4-7

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

  • Jeremiah 31:33-34

The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we didn’t believe in decent behaviour, why should be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently?”

  • C. S. Lewis, The Case For Christianity

The Scriptures are the Alpha and Omega of the present human condition.  Genesis 3 tells of the fall of mankind, and Jeremiah 31 tells of when God fixes the problem permanently.  Maybe the Alpha and Omega refers to the “human” in the condition, because when we are in Heaven, we get new names.  Maybe, at the same time, we get a new name for our species.  Maybe we will no longer be the human race, because that elicits the concept of a sinful people.

But, Adam and Eve sinned.  They ate the fruit from a tree that God had told them not to eat.  The serpent told them truths, half-truths, and lies.  The conversation seems to be with Eve, but Adam was within arm’s reach as she handed him the fruit.  And then the part of what the serpent said that was true came to pass.  They understood good and evil, for they realized they were naked.  Their nakedness was not a big deal when they did not understand that they could look upon each other with lustful desires.  Thus, they understood and had to make a covering for themselves.  And then beyond what is quoted above, they hid from God.  They knew.

Yes, we understand what good and evil are.  We understand what behaving decently means.  And far too often, we ignore that knowledge and do what we know is wrong.

And what C. S. Lewis says about making excuses is so comical.  Have you ever met an atheist that has more rules of decent behavior than a Christian could ever think of, but they do not wish to believe in God, because they do not want to live by His rules, when their rules are much more restrictive and there is no room for forgiveness if a rule is broken?  I know, a run-on sentence.  Probably something that the atheist that was just mentioned would never do.

Have you ever met an atheist who follows God’s law, all except those laws that talk of worshipping God alone, but only because they thought of it all on their own?  They could never imagine that it was God who designed them with the thought of good and evil in them.

Have you ever met a person, maybe even a Christian, that follows God’s law for the most part, but then subscribes to every superstition, running around throwing salt over their shoulder, turning around and walking the other way when they see a black cat cross the path they were on, never picking up a lost penny if it is tails up, or never leaving the house if their horoscope told them it would be a bad day?  And never using two run-on sentences in the same post?!?!?!

But then, have you ever met a person, and yes, some go to church, that purposefully acts improperly.  They never apologize, but as C. S. Lewis suggests, they make excuses.  Why say anything if they are living according to their own unwritten set of rules?  Why make an excuse if they meant to do it in the first place?

They make excuses because they know that their behavior is deplorable.  Sorry, “deplorable,” according to some people, is the way Christians act.  Which makes me think the person saying it is deplorable, but since they use that word improperly, I need a new word!!  This world is getting harder and harder to put up with!  And yes, I wrote a sentence ending in a preposition!!!!

And since we have it built within our DNA to know the difference in good and evil, we are indeed a race of horrible creatures.  If we halfway tried to be decent, this world would be okay.  It would be great, if we tried harder.  No.  Far too many people plot evil.  Far too many people are so self-absorbed that they do not notice that their actions hurt other people, and they do not care when it is pointed out to them.

Far too many people are like my old professor for the senior year of ROTC.  He was the only person in ROTC over six feet tall.  Thus, he joined the intramural basketball team since he took graduate school classes when not teaching – thus a fellow student.  And since he taught us proper military bearing and etiquette, he had to live by what he preached – never knowing a more prim and proper fellow in my life than he.  Although he was a Major in the Army, a Captain was the coach for the team, the same coach for all the athletic teams.  In one basketball game, the other team had a guy who was four feet nothing, extremely short, but he was quick.  Since the Major was so far off the ground, the short guy timed the Major’s dribble and stole the ball before the ball could bounce back up to the Major’s hand.  Invariably, the Major would reach out to retrieve the ball, fouling the other player.  Late in the game with the MGM team behind…  Our team in every sport was MGM – the Mean Green Machine, but MGM sounded like a bunch of weaklings from the performing arts department – an easy win.  It was hilarious seeing the other team’s reaction when we showed up.  But I digress…  Late in the game and behind, the Major was sitting on the bench in foul trouble.  He went to the Captain and pleaded, “Put me in, Coach!!  I have one foul left, and I know who I’m going to use it on!!!”  This gentle giant had enough.  For just a moment, he plotted evil in his heart.  Don’t worry, the short guy was not permanently disabled, but for a moment, he knew what it was like … “to fly.”  A third officer in ROTC was the officer in charge of flight instruction, but it is more impressive when you do not use a helicopter or airplane.

See how it works?  There are no legitimate excuses.  Give an excuse if you must, but as I learned in the Army, excuses are not acceptable and, in some circles, never accepted, only getting the job done and done properly.

No excuses, because we really know when we have done wrong, and when we look deep inside, we know why we did wrong.  In just about every case -at least, I can think of no exception – we broke the greatest commandment or the other commandment equal to it.  We either forgot to love God, just for a moment, or we forgot to love the other person.

We know better, and someday we will act better, and what a great gift promised in Jeremiah 31, we will think better, in our heart and mind.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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