Friday, November 14, 2008

I am an old, old man.

“We know that the man we once were has been crucified with Christ, for the destruction of the sinful self, so that we may no longer be the slaves of sin, since a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin.” Romans 6:8

“Give up living like the pagans with their good-for-nothing notions. Their wits are beclouded, they are strangers to the life that is in God, because ignorance prevails among them and their minds have grown as hard as stone. Dead to all feeling, they have abandoned themselves to vice, and stop at nothing to satisfy their foul desires. But that is not how you learned Christ. For were you not told of him, were you not as Christians taught the truth as it is in Jesus? That, leaving your former way of life, you must lay aside that old human nature which, deluded by its lusts, is sinking towards death. You must be made new in mind and spirit, and put on the new nature of God’s creating, which shows itself in the just and devout life called for by the truth.” Ephesians 4: 17-24

“ … now that you have discarded the old nature with its deeds and have put on the new nature, which is being constantly renewed in the image of its Creator and brought to know God.” Colossians 3: 10-11

“If you are guided by the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of your lower nature. That nature sets its desires against the Spirit, while the Spirit fights against it.”

To the best of my knowledge, Paul has very little complimentary things to say about a person prior to that person finding him/herself in Christ. It's very simple for him. The old man was someone who was full of vices and negative lusts and essentially just not a pleasant person. The new man -- the one created new in Christ -- is a reformed, more pleasant person.

So the unsaved is the "old man." Therefore, if we go back to person A (the unsaved) and person B (the saved), when person B is praying that person A receives salvation, does that not put person A in the category of the "old man?" For surely person A cannot qualify as the "new man," for person A is not saved.

Yet person A is also claiming person B to be a close friend, and accepts person A just as s/he is. Based on how Paul tends to describe the old man, who in their right mind would accept that type of person as a close friend? And if we take this exactly as Paul describes the old man, does this not mean that Person B is supposed to view person A as this lust-filled, vice-seeking, nature-fighting-against-Spirit ... person?

In many cases, I don't think evangelicals follow this black and white thinking, and divide people into these neat, organized categories. On the other hand, maybe they do, as I've seen the reason why an unsaved person is better behaved is because the person secretly believes in God. Or there's the idea that people are better behaved than Christians because that's what their religion teaches them -- they receive heaven based on good works, and thus the good behavior is really just driven by selfishness. And there are evangelicals out there who do view the world in these narrow compartments, absolutely convinced that that all unsaved people are just soaked through and through with sinsinsin, and are just waiting to burst forth and do all that sinful stuff.

I think person B falls into the category of an unnarrow viewpoint, to some degree. However, I'm also thinking that person B has no idea of the implications behind the sincere desire that person A be saved, and what that entails about person A's character. That it means person B is calling person A an "old man" and Biblically, that's not the most complimentary thing to say.

But person A is left with the feeling that person B cannot one the one hand say that person A is a very close friend, and wants person A to trust person B, and then at the same time hold this belief that person A is only the "old man." And that's not even getting into the idea behind certain Bible verses about how the only reason why one rejects Jesus is because of this burning desire to cling to the darkness. It's a little hard to maintain any sort of deep friendship when person B's theology leaves little room to see something positive in others.

Yet, I'm also wondering if maybe person A is just being a little hypersensitive.