A few days ago, a lawyer friend of mine brought up the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And to my surprise, she asked me how we could pray for Putin. One thing she suggested, was that we could channel our prayers so the goodness in Putin’s heart would resurface, and he would now change his evil ways and do the right thing.
At that point (perhaps rudely), I laughed. Getting Putin to change his heart is like asking the sea not to be wet, or for the sky not to be high. You might as well ask a baby not to cry or a scorpion not to sting. The fact is that Putin cannot change his nature. And neither can you and I.
But my friend was heartfelt and sincere, so I added “But we can pray for Putin to know Jesus. As Jesus is the only one who can transform the human heart.” From there the conversation got interesting.
My friend believes people are inherently good. And as proof of such, she notes the amazing acts of altruism where people do great things at the cost of their life, and for no reward. Of course, as a born again Christian, I believe quite the opposite. Yes, people can certainly do good deeds. Even great ones. But at heart, every person is inherently bad. Every person, whether young, old, or in between is corrupt and in need of a savior.
So who’s right? And how can we find out? Is there really a test to determine if people are inherently good or inherently bad? The answer, I believe, is a resounding “Yes.” We simply have to determine our true nature. The Bible says good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. But I propose a secular test. Something that will convince even the atheist or ardent agnostic who couldn’t care less about my Christian beliefs.
The Test of How Good You Are:
Imagine that you could get away with anything. You have near absolute power over all the people around you. But not absolute resources. You still have enemies. You still have limitations. You still have plenty of people who disagree with you. Some who even oppose your very existence. Now imagine that 5 years go by. And these people are getting in the way of what you know they must do to make the world a better place.
Now ask yourself: What would your thoughts be toward these people? Would you be so keen on protecting their “inalienable rights?” Would you be willing to preserve and protect their diverse and perhaps antagonistic points of view?
And what about if a trusted friend could get inside your head? Would they see your words, your thoughts and your actions as wholesome, uplifting and life changing? Or would they find that for some reason, you were becoming more impulsive, more selfish, more brutal and less tolerant than before you ever had this power?
So Where Did You Get This Stupid Test?
I didn’t make it up. Our founding fathers did. Yes, many of our founding fathers were Christian. But some were not. And they knew the depravity of the human heart. This is why they enacted the United States Constitution. They knew that without checks and balances to hold human beings accountable, there would be no justice. There would be no liberty. And there would be no good government. They knew that everyone’s true nature is to be just like Vladimir Putin.
So How Good Are You With Absolute Power?
OK. So perhaps you’re different. Maybe you with your enlightened conscience would never be a brutal dictator. This too can be tested.
How many of you were delighted when rioters stormed the US Capitol? And how many of you wanted these people put in prison for life? And what about the Covid vaccine? Which of you were perfectly happy to imprison those who refused to be vaccinated? And on the flip side, what about all of you who cared more about your personal freedom than the lives of the frail and the elderly?
What would you do with absolute power? Would you cherish and honor the people who thought radically different from you? Would you be much better than Putin? Or simply just as brutal, but in a way that you could justify…at least to yourself.
Honestly now… Isn’t it true that at heart, many of you want there to be just one political party? Isn’t there a deep, heartfelt belief that the other side has no redeeming value… that if only they were gone, your party could get it right? Be honest here. If you find you’re a dictator at heart, you are far from being alone. It’s the human condition.
The Reality of Human Nature
People are defiant, self serving and need constant accountability. And that’s just to behave well outwardly. Inwardly, we’re even worse. Dozens of times a day, our thoughts turn to rage, jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment, greed, lust, indifference to the plight of others, and a desire for more and more control. This is who we are.
And it’s not just adults who are this way. It’s even our children. Ever wonder why babies are so quick to learn “NO”, “ME” and “MINE?”
As parents, we teach our children to share, do good and tell the truth. But which of us ever had to teach them how to lie? Or how to grab tightly on to what’s theirs? For some reason, this all comes naturally. It’s innate to our very being. It transcends our race, class, income, nationality, religion, and education. Why is that?
Our true nature is what we say, think and act like when we believe no one cares, no one will see or no one can stop us. It rears its ugly head on the road in our daily commutes. It’s what appears in the back alleys during secret drug deals, and it’s what lurks behind closed doors where no one can see it but our families.
Even psychologists are dumbfounded by human brutality. And by our eagerness to follow orders even if it means hurting innocents. Think of the Milgram electro shock experiments of the early 1960’s. (A test to see if Americans would blindly obey authority just like the Nazis did.)
Participants in this test were led to believe that they were assisting an unrelated experiment, in which they had to administer electric shocks to a “learner.” These fake electric shocks gradually increased to levels that would have been fatal had they been real. Milgram himself, was horrified by the results of the experiment. In the “remote condition” version of the experiment (where the subject couldn’t see but could still hear the victim’s cries), a whopping 65 percent of the subjects continued to inflict shocks right up to the lethal 450-volt level! And this despite the learner’s screams, protests, and, at the 330-volt level, a disturbing silence.
This is who we are. This is our nature.
So If No Human is Good, Where Do I Go From Here?
Where you go with this information all depends on you. The fact is that we all fall short of being good. Or as the Bible says: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So no one gets God’s approval based on their works. Indeed, our very nature is that we all want to be little dictators. We all want to do it our own way and be our own God. So with that always in our hearts and minds, there’s no way on our own that we can ever please the one True King.
However, in Romans 23:22-23 the Bible offers a solution. It offers humanity a savior from its own depraved nature.
Romans says: This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
That’s it. We can try to be good over and over again with the same results. Or we can accept Jesus as our savor. This is the choice we have. We can seek out Jesus and ask Him to come into our lives and reveal who He is. This is what I did in 1994. And I have no regrets.
Jesus in the Shower (My life changing event in 1994)