I agreed with an agnostic today. "The world is brutal. People can do good. We all make choices." I supported my arguments with Scripture and a smile. She shared with tears in her eyes and a tissue in her hand. She has a brain tumor, and good works cannot save her. Neither can they save the planet.
"The world is brutal."
Perhaps Eden was more wild than we give her credit for. She was a habitat for both the lying snake and Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She required Adam's sickle and promised pain to Eve's labor. (Note: Birth pains increased in the curse of Genesis 3, which implies a moderate level of pain were a baby to emerge).
But life East of Eden is abundantly more cruel. Miscarriages and market crashes. Head colds and brain tumors. Warts and strokes. Shame. Abuse. Loneliness. And separation from God.
The world is brutal. We can blame bad parents and corrupt governments until the day melts to darkness. Its brutality, though, goes deeper. It goes farther. The ground is cursed and humankind caused it (see Genesis 3).
"People can do good."
Even in this God-cursed, sin-scarred world, little boys and quiet girls reflect the image of God. Hard-working women and industrious men reflect the image of God. Some on purpose. All by nature. But this innate capacity to mirror God in our thinking, relating, creating, and doing good does not save us (see Genesis 1:26-2:25). For we could never do enough good to feed the hungry, foster the orphans, end all wars, and earn God's favor. Our best good is filthy rags.
"We all make choices."
I wore jeans today instead of slacks. I selected a sweater instead of a tee-shirt. My parents took me to church when I was a child. Other parents starve their kids and take their medications. I prefer my coffee black. I ate Chinese food for lunch instead of hamburgers. My parents raised me to be financially responsible. Other parents abandon their kids or die in childbirth.
We all make choices, but no choice happens in isolation. Previous experiences affect us: the brutality of the world; the goodness of our family tree. Eve's choice affected Adam's affected mine.
In the end, there is one choice that matters: Do you love Jesus?
Not: Did you suffer?
Not: Did you do good?
Not: Did you wear khakis to Panda Express.
Do you love Jesus? As much truth as there might be between me and anyone else, this alone has eternal importance.