Bread – Nature

February 9, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, February 9, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 54:1-17; Gal. 4:21-31; Mark 8:11-26; Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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Nurture or nature? This is one of the great debates in the modern world. Are we the product of who we were born to be (nature) or of whatever environment we live in (nurture)? If you believe the latter, to improve life you change the environment for the better – better education, better food, better health care, better housing, etc. If you believe the former, you understand that in order to improve life you have to have an infusion of better DNA. For the modern scientist among us who believe that they are God, this means changing genetic coding in the womb (designer babies) or through manipulation of genetics in treatment of disease. For those of us who understand what Christ did for us on the cross, the understanding is that, in order to infused with Christ’s genetics, to be adopted into God’s family, we must be “born again.”

Sometimes the Bible interprets itself, which is a great thing. For example, in Isaiah 54:1 from our reading today, we read “’Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor, because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord.” Is. 54:1. When I read this, my thought was “what is the world does this mean?”

Well, it turns out that my answer is in the second reading today, from Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, where he describes the barren woman as Sarah of the Bible, the barren woman who was blessed with many descendants as the recipient of God’s promises, and the “her who has a husband” as Hagar, the slave woman. In this passage, Paul essentially describes the genetics we receive from the actions of man are no good, whereas the genetics we receive from the actions of God in making good on His promises are good. “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman [representing children born by man’s action], but of the free woman [representing children born by God’s action].” Gal. 4:31

This debate has been satisfied in Scripture. It is man’s nature which determines outcomes, not his nurture. Change the nature by acceptance of God’s promises in Jesus Christ, change the man. Everything else clouds the issue.

But even though the debate has been resolved in Scripture, it goes on throughout the centuries in society, throughout all cultures at all times. The insidious murmurings of both religious and secular authorities that “we” can somehow change ourselves through a higher understanding of religious duty, a better understanding of human psychology, a more complete and thorough science, is quite possibly the “yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” which Jesus warns us about in our reading today from Mark – “’Be careful,’ Jesus warned, ‘Watch out for the yeast [leaven] of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’” Mk. 8:15.

Why is this debate so important? It boils down to the question of who is on first. Is it me or is it God? If I can change myself by changing my circumstances, then the person on first is me and God becomes a co-laborer in the field, if he (lowercase “h”) even has that status. If I have to be changed in my innermost nature, how can that change come from me? – it requires a force external to me. If I know that it is my nature which has to be changed first, then God is on first and I am not even in the picture.

So, today as we attempt to deal with all of our various problems, how much of these are caused by our nature? To the extent the answer to this question is positive, have you been working in your own power to change your nature? Is that working for you? I suspect the answer to that is “no.” If so, maybe it is time to look to the source of true “nature” change, our Creator, and ask Him to deliver on His promise to us. When we do, in our barren state, we will “burst into song” and “shout for joy” because “more are the children of the desolate woman [who knows she needs God] than of her who has a husband [and therefore relies on her-him rather than God].”

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