Last week Cyprus made the news when a video of a Cypriot man assaulting a woman was posted online and went viral. The video was disturbing enough without the added fact that the woman was holding an infant when the assault occurred. The images of the man kicking the fallen woman, child in arms, seemed to point out, yet again, all that is wrong with humanity.
The collective reaction to the attack was predictable. Racist, sexist, xenophobic, criminal. I assume most people who watched it thought the same thing I did, “One more glaring example of human nature at its worst!”
But is it really? Is it the ‘worst’ of human nature? Or is it just plain-old human nature?
After all, it’s not like this kind of thing only happens in Cyprus.
I’m no historian, but I understand that history is one long narrative of how ‘civilization’ has progressed, one nation after the next, largely on the backs of others. Our modern world was arrived at via a long, dark and often brutal path. If history is any standard for measuring the capacity of the human heart, then we shouldn’t be shocked by the video we saw. We shouldn’t be surprised at the missiles raining down from eastern European skies. We shouldn’t be troubled by the starvation ravaging entire regions of our, so-called, ‘global village’. The record suggests it’s simply who we are.
And yet most people are troubled by all these things. Why? Because our conscience dictates it. Despite history’s never-ending cycle of conflict and oppression, we still know, deep down, it’s wrong. We still believe it shouldn’t be this way. If anything, history proves that every single one of us, you and I included, under the right conditions, are capable of doing things to our neighbor we never deemed imaginable.
Even as you read this article, history seems doomed to repeat itself once again as war looms on the horizon. Four months ago, few believed one ‘modern’ country would really go to war against another one. But it did. Last week we were reminded that things we thought were non-negotiables, like hitting a woman carrying a baby, are not. Nothing we do to bring about lasting change seems to work. Our persistent determination to better ourselves has brought endless reforms in every conceivable size and shape, and yet here we are again, saddened by our humanity.
Clearly our attempts over the ages to bring about outward behavioral modification have proven limited and temporal at best. If there is any such thing as the so-called ‘path to enlightenment’, we should be much, much further down the road than we are by now. You’d think we’d have seen some significant shift in the way we treat each other, but we haven’t.
So now what? Do we just roll over and give up any hope for lasting change?
Do we swipe-right or scroll down to the next post, without confronting the stabbing convictions inside? Do we drown-out, drink-down, or out-shout the voice of truth telling us we are made for so much more? And with so many of us dealing with our own private battles of the heart, how can we conceive of helping anyone else with theirs?
In the Bible, Jesus Christ said, “…out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…” (emphasis mine)
Why is this such a radical statement? Because Jesus is saying that beyond all the outward influences that shape our behavior throughout life, there is a deeper problem, our hearts, or very nature. True, our behavior is shaped during developmental years by family, friends, and culture. Yes, trauma, abuse and crisis leave lasting scars that effect the way people interact with the world around them. But He points to a deeper universal root to the problem of humanity, our heart. It’s not just the warmongers and human-traffickers that need new hearts, we all do. Even the kindest person you know.
Until we are prepared to acknowledge that our heart is where the real problem lies, we will forever be putting plasters where only a heart transplant will help.
That is why Jesus came. Ultimately, to give us new hearts.
He said, “I have come to give you life…” (John 10:10).
The core message of the Bible, what we call the Gospel, or good news, is that God sent His only Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins and provide us with the gift of eternal life.
Jesus didn’t leave heaven simply to set up a religious ‘institution’ on earth. He didn’t die on a Roman cross just to make bad people better. He didn’t rise from the dead only to make behavioral modifications. He lived, died and rose victorious to provide forgiveness of sins and power to live a completely new life. Jesus came to fulfill the promise of God, “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”
Are we willing to recognize that change must begin with you and I? Are we willing to confess that it isn’t only our behavior as much as our hearts that need changing? Are we willing to recognize that God is the only one who can change our nature, our heart?
Cry out to Jesus for a new heart. Repent, believe and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! Let Him change your heart. Let Him begin with you.
Jesus changed the world once before by transforming the hearts of a handful of people, maybe he wants to do it again in our generation.
By Pastor Tim Mattox
Paphos Calvary Chapel