The Zebra Paradox: Inspired by, Waking the Dead, Chapter 5
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 NIV
"You remember faintly that you were once more than what you have become. Your story didn't start with sin, and thank God, it does not end with sin. It ends with glory restored." - Waking the Dead, Chapter 5
“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Audrey Hepburn
“Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Is the zebra white with black stripes or black with white stripes? It seems like a mundane, childish question. Or even the beginning of a joke. But yet we kinda want to know the answer because…it matters. We want to know which one is the true nature. A healthy person who likes junk food, or a junk food addict that occasionally eats vegetables? A good mom with bad moments, or a bad mom with good moments? The yin or the yang? Jekyll or Hyde? Which one was the original essence, and which one came along later and clouded the picture? It's important to know, because it is to that original nature that we are trying to return.
I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “51% Calm and 49% Crazy – Don’t Push It!” It made me laugh, and we usually laugh at what’s relatable. It is easy to admit that we can have a dual nature. But for far too long, as Christians, we have settled into the idea that we are born evil, always bear a sin nature, and remain corrupt sinners saved by grace, but always held back by our primitive, selfish tendencies. It’s an idea I accepted very easily. It was widely taught throughout the American church in the 80s and 90s. And yet, it has held all of us back.
I first had this notion challenged by a friend of mine. She told me she doesn’t believe we still have a sin nature once we are saved. This was several years ago. And it struck me as somewhere between blasphemy and ridiculous. I thought, “Of course we still have a sin nature! Would you like me to read off a list of mistakes to prove it??” But I was both bewildered and intrigued. The idea that we have a good heart – well, it was downright freeing. It was motivating like nothing else. Could it also be true?
Chapters 4 and 5 explore this concept in detail and re-examine our understanding of certain scriptures. It is important to occasionally revisit your favorite verses in the light of a new revelation. Although the scriptures don’t change, a new interpretation can reveal things you didn’t see before. For example, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13, could easily be understood as, ‘I can do nothing alone. Once God shows up, he can use me as his vessel to do anything.’ But with new perspective, I understand this to mean ‘Once I am saved, everything I do is “through Christ” as He has given a part of His glory for me alone to reveal. I don’t have to wait for Him to show up. He’s already given me His glory and his Holy Spirit – He’s already here!’
Once you have received Christ, you have a good heart! This is part of the gospel – the good news. If He resides within us, and our hearts are the new tabernacle, then our hearts have become His, and have become Holy. Finally, a message that is consistent with the truth of being completely forgiven. I hope this message brings a wave of peace over you, as it did with me.