When I used to be in the classroom, I would ask my twelve and thirteen-year-old students on the first day of school whether we were born good or evil. I considered that an important launch point for studying literature that looked at characters struggling in an imperfect world. Their responses were heartfelt and humbling. Those who considered we may be innately good did concede it was hard to stay that way. In other words, you have to work at being good. It takes practice and it often goes against our own will.
C. S. Lewis gets it right when he says that we all know the natural law of good and evil. No one needs to explain it to us. I understood a selfish act by the time I was four. I do not consider myself the exception. Everyone understands the conscience imprinted into our hearts, and we feel the shame of our self-inflicted wounds when we hurt others. We become wounded sinners.
Are we perfectable through our own efforts, or is there an element of grace involved? So often I have weighed these two views in the balance, and if I am honest with myself I have to take the side of grace. It is the mystery of being human. For all my efforts, my inclinations get the better of me, and I realize my soul has been tended by a Father who made us in his image and holds us in his hands.
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