Above is a picture of my dog Blu, as a puppy and as he is now as a 4 year old.. He is a bit strange looking which is down to him being a cross between a Rottweiler and a Husky. But the oddness does not stop at his looks. He also has two very distinct natures. The Rottie side of him is silent, protective, solid, loyal, gentle and loving within the family pack. The Husky side of him is playful in the pack, boisterous, needs lots of exercise and needs to know who is pack leader.
So there are definitely two natures to this dog and sometimes those natures really compete…such as when he want to guard the house when the postman walks up the path but at the same time his Husky tail is wagging like mad wanting to play.
So why am I telling you this? Well one of the main points I want to explore is that we as human beings are ourselves creatures with two very distinct and sometimes competing natures. What I mean by that is that as humans we are both both divine and earthy in nature…No matter who we are.
Here are verses concerning our heavenly and earthly natures:
‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’
‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour.’
‘Then the lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.’
Our earthly and heavenly natures within have been described as kindred and contrary natures. I quite like that description, it’s easy to relate to!
Our earthly nature is designed to help us function in the world, it is egocentric, it is concerned with survival, with meeting our basic needs for food and water and shelter. And of course we need it because without it we would struggle to survive. But the downside of our earthly nature can make us territorial. We want to know who we can trust and who we need to defend ourselves from. And defend ourselves we do! We build barriers and fences. We create all sorts of divisions based on creed, culture ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation,education and so on. And very often we fight each other based on these differences and our perceived threat they bring to our sense of safety. Ultimately this side of us causes us to look after ourselves and those closest to us. Some of this nature is driven by instinct; in the same way that Blu instinctively guards his home and family.. Such survival instinct is in built into all creatures whether dog or human or anything else.
But we humans are different from other creatures because hidden within us, in the deepest portion of our soul is our heavenly nature, like a precious diamond hidden in the depths of the earth’s carbon layers. Some writers describe this nature as our true self that emerges when we trust God enough to be able to let go of our earthly egotistical selves.
From time to time its radiance shines through and beyond our basic earthly instincts such as in our acts of kindness and grace, or in our offering forgiveness and unconditional love. It shines through in those times when we build bridges instead of defences and when we see our differences as something to be celebrated rather than deplored. This is our heavenly nature lifting us up above our worldly self to focus on something both within and beyond. A higher purpose if you like….
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live solely according to this divine nature. Mainly we don’t because the influence of our earthly nature is so strong like a gravitational pull – that rising above our worldly ways is really hard.
Yet Jesus shows us precisely what it is to be fully human, but at the same time living according to the fully divine nature. Not only does Jesus do this but he also calls us to the same way of life. To live according to that divine nature. This living the divine nature is what Paul was describing when he said ‘It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me’.
But it’s not an easy call!
We only have to watch the disciples struggle with their earthly natures as they betray and deny, as they falter and blame, accuse and battle to be seen to be better than the rest of them, to know that their battle to live out their divine nature was every bit as tough as ours. But Jesus never doubted that it was possible for the human soul to raise above the earthly nature and everything he teaches is precisely geared towards this – to enabling that deep treasure within to surface and to shine radiantly in every part of our lives.
One thing we should understand though is that this is not about morality, it is not about acting out a set of social and behavioural rules designed to make us fit the religious system.
Rather it is about an inner spiritual transformation that, by grace, changes us from the soul outwards rather than from the law inwards. But we must understand that we are not passive in this work. Undoubtedly God initiates our growth towards the emergence of the true self but we do play our part in aspiring to live according to our divine nature. It requires our active participation. It is a decision that we make!
Living as earthly beings is not a decision, we can do it without thinking about it. Indeed we go about our lives on automatic pilot a lot of the time, reacting to the world without even thinking about our actions and the effect they have on others. If someone upsets us we can retaliate without even thinking about it. But to offer grace to that person instead is an active decision that we make. Forgiving someone is an active decision that we make, loving the unlovable is an active decision that we make…ignoring them is not a decision it is the default position of the ego!
Do you see what I mean?
Now one of the features that is unique to human beings is our ability to be self conscious, to think and to decide for ourselves how we will act. Dogs can’t do that! If Blu has a piece of sirloin steak in his bowl he can’t think to himself ‘Oh, the poor dog next door never gets much to eat I think I’ll give this steak to him’, Blu has no capacity to make that decision….his automatic pilot would wolf it down before his bowl touched the ground!
We do though! We can look at those in need and decide whether to act from our self center or from our divine centre. We have the capacity to make that decision and this is critical in shifting towards living according to our true self…Living as conscious decision makers instead of on automatic pilot.
Now in many passages in the gospels we hear Jesus telling us to keep awake. What he means by this is for us to be alert to our own reactions, intentions and decisions. To choose to live according to the divine nature at every moment. This is what he calls being prepared. It demands that we are self aware, self observant and ready to choose in the moment. The alternative is to be asleep, not really consciously deciding anything but letting our base instincts choose for us.
So let us then think about the importance of being intentional in how we live our lives. We are called to raise our conscious awareness in the direction of our divine nature and as we realise this we also notice how God offers us, in every moment of our waking lives, in all our dealings with others and even in the silence, opportunities to become imitators of Christ that this true calling may be fulfilled.