In last weeks Christmas blog I wrote about the purpose of Christ coming into the world. As the angel told Joseph, “…He will save His people from their sins.” We also considered the word “rescue” which the Apostle Paul liked to use.
It also strikes me that Christ came into the world to save us from ourselves. Human beings have this tendency to self-destruct. I was recently reading where God said to Moses in Exodus 32:7 “Go down at once, for your people, who you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.
I was recently reading a book about Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. This of course is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy, cold-hearted 19th century accountant. He was quite wealthy but greatly disliked by all.
One Christmas Eve Scrooge comes home late, and is confronted by the ghost of his dead partner who had died on Christmas Eve, seven years before. He warns Scrooge that death is a “chain-dragging hell” but that it is not too late for him to repent.
Marley’s words to Scrooge are pertinent to the theme of this blog. He says, “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will.”
Marley admits that his devotion to work and money choked out any thought about what really matters, relationships. He died a lonely, miserable man and he is warning Scrooge not to go down this destructive path.
Yet so many people wallow in misery because of their self-inflicted pain. They end up creating their own chains, as Marley reminds us, by their “own free will.”
One of the most gifted writers ever to live was the English author and poet Oscar Wilde. He was educated in some of Great Britain’s finest schools and excelled in the Greek language. His writing earned him great wealth and he was the toast of London. One literary critic described him as “our most quotable writer” after Shakespeare.
Sadly, however, Wilde squandered all that he had and died penniless. Before he died, he reflected on his life and penned these words:
I must say to myself that I ruined myself, and that nobody great or small can be ruined except by his own hand. … Terrible as what the world did to me, what I did to myself was far more terrible still.
The gods had given me almost everything. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease. I surrounded myself with the smaller natures and the meaner minds. I became the spendthrift of my own genius, and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy. Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it.
Wilde desired to live a long life and produce great literary work, but he also loved pleasure. In the end, as he put it himself, “I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.” Wilde died a broken man at the age of forty-six.
The Bible helps us understand the path of self-destruction in simple terms. In Isaiah 53:6 we are told that “all of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” In other words, we seek to live however we please, to go our own way.
The problem with sheep is that they are dumb. On their own their lives are in great danger. For this reason, they need a shepherd who will lead, guide, nourish, and protect them. All the sheep need to do is stay close to the shepherd and allow him to lead.
The Apostle Peter says “For you were continually straying like sheep but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25) We need to be close to our Shepherd, to enable Him to be the Guardian of our soul.
This is essential for our lives to flourish and it will keep us from experiencing the pain of self-destruction.