Early on in the Bible, we are met with a shocking moment! It’s the story of Cain and Abel. Sometime after the Fall, one son of Adam and Eve kills the other. Since then we have found new ways to objectify each other, hurt each other and kill each other. Almost every parent I know has some concern about the world in which our children are going to live in. We recognise that the world, and therefore humanity, is not getting better but in many ways worse. Yet, despite this concern for our children’s future there is also this unrelenting belief that we are better than those who went before us.
CS Lewis in “The Weight of Glory” wrote, there is ‘…the belief that human history is a simple, unilinear movement from worse to better – what is called belief in Progress – so that any given generation is always in all respects wiser than all the previous generations. To those who believe this, our ancestors are superseded and there seems nothing improbable in the claim that the whole world was wrong until the day before yesterday and now has suddenly become right. With such people I confess I cannot argue, for I do not share their basic assumption. Believers in progress rightly note that in the world of machines the new model supersedes the old; from this they falsely infer a similar kind of superscession in such things as virtue and wisdom.’
There is this pull to believe we are somehow better than those who have gone before us. We feel superior. This is a danger when it comes to grace. This is not to suggest that we have not grown and learned from the mistakes of those who have gone before us, nor does it suggest that we are necessarily morally inferior to those who have gone before us either. But, without a recognition that we are not okay, that we are broken and that no amount of technological advancement makes us somehow morally superior, then we do not need God and his forgiveness. Our admission that we are not okay and that we cannot solve our broken human condition is critical to experiencing grace.
It seems we have these conflicting narratives in us. As a result we either place our hope in self or our hope in God. In our righteousness or in the grace of God. How do you see yourself and where do you place your hope?