Pascal writes, “It is dangerous to let a man recognize too clearly how much he has in common with the animals without at the same time helping him to realize his greatness. It is also unwise to let him see his greatness too clearly without realizing also his baseness. It is even more dangerous still to leave him in ignorance of them both. So it is advantageous to draw attention to them both.”
Angels one minute, ravenous beasts the next; missions of mercy versus insatiable genocide; predatory economic practices versus Habitat for Humanity; mankind’s contradictions live in nations, communities, families, and individuals - our nature is inconsistent except in its inconsistency.
Teachers and preachers who prey on puffing our greatness at the expense of revealing our baseness lead us down a path to hell, a hell filled with self, a black hole of living that uses self as the benchmark. They have us traipse down an ever-widening highway of good feelings and intentions designed to make us feel better while we ignore the dis-ease of sin in our narcissistic souls – like animals we live to satisfy our appetites, except with us the appetite is that of self-esteem, of feeling good about ourselves no matter how delusional the hall of mirrors may be. They ignore the fact that our true greatness lies in experiencing restoration to the image of God, the image from which we fell; they ignore the fact that the way to that greatness is the Christ of the Cross and the Cross of Christ.
Preachers and teachers who tell us we are worthless worms, creatures of the earth and ground and dirt and dust; who offer no respite from a continual pounding of guilt and shame – impose on us a slavery of the worst kind, a slavery that puts royalty in shackles, that convinces a prince that he is a pauper, a princess that she is a harlot. And humanists that bring us down to accidents of time plus matter plus chance rob us of all nobility, of a sense of Paradise Lost with the hope that Paradise may be regained. The humanist says, “Fool, animals have no hope except it be in their next meal. Eat, drink, and be merry – for when you die you die.”
The Gospel tells us that we are noble and ignoble at one and the same time and it tells us why, it helps us understand ourselves collectively and individually. It gives us a picture of health, it reveals our malady, and it offers a cure. The Law of God reveals our sin, the grace of God reveals our Savior.