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A Divided Nation and A Divided Will

September 2, 2018  |   PASTOR ZACHARY PUDLO
 
 
“As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
 
The Nature of the Will
I ran across this quote and couldn’t help but wonder how Leonardo da Vinci could get away saying this. After all, wasn’t he known to be a true renaissance man? Didn’t he dabble in not just art, but also math, architecture, science, music, and the list goes on and on? Maybe he was speaking from experience. A divided mind saps itself. I suppose most of us can relate. We do live in a busy world where personal life, family life, work life, and everything in between seems to tug us in different directions.
 
But as I read through this quote I couldn’t help but think about how often times our own interests tug and pull against one another. We have divided wills raging within us. For example: Last night I wanted to sit down and write this blog. But I also hadn’t had a night off for the week and dishes had piled up in my sink. I wanted to write, but I also wanted a night off from normal duties to clean up and relax a little. Or another example: I can resist ordering dessert from any menu. I have no trouble with that. But if you place dessert in front of me I WILL eat it. Most of you can probably relate. We all have a will within us that is divided. We have conflicting desires raging within our own bodies. Why is that?
 
Theories for the Division
There are about as many explanations for why we have these conflicting desires within us as there are people in the world. Almost all of them have to do with the way the human being is made up. For example: Plato would attribute the conflicting wills to the conflicting desires of body and mind. Our body has one desire, and our mind has another. Freud would attribute the divided self to the division of the Id (Instincts), Ego (Reality), and Superego (Morality). For Freud, the reason we would have conflicting desires is because our instincts conflicted with reality and morality. More recent theories would attribute conflicting desires to the different sections of our brain as it develops from youth to adolescence to adulthood. Though there are countless more, these are just a few examples of ways human beings have tried to explain the motivational factors that drive and move us day in and day out and the reasons why we have divided wills and desires raging within us. 
 
An Ancient Explanation
In Galatians 5:17 Paul offers up this as a possible explanation, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do
whatever you want.” Paul is saying that the reason for the inner conflict is more than just a matter of the brain or instinct. It goes deeper than that. It is a moral/spiritual conflict. He says something similar in Romans 7:21-23, “So I discover this principle: When I want to do what is good, evil is with me. For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law.  But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.” Paul is saying we all have desires within us. But those desires often go against what we know deep down to be true… a higher being created us. He designed us for a purpose, and when we go against that design and purpose we know we have to answer to him.
 
The Division in Me/Society
We live in a society that absolutely believes in living morally. Ask most Americans and they will say they 100% agree with the golden rule…love your neighbor as yourself. And yet, our culture also has attached itself to the statement, “Be true to yourself.” The problem is those two axioms are fiercely opposite one another. At our core, we are selfish. That means when push comes to shove, we are going to choose ourselves over our neighbors.
 
We are divided as a society because we are divided at our own individual cores. We hear people preach day in and day out about the pollution that is overrunning our world. And yet, those same people take private jets to their private islands. We hear of a congress that passes laws and taxes and penalties, and yet exempts itself from those same laws, taxes and penalties. The same congress that can’t balance a budget and yet wouldn’t dream of decreasing their own paychecks and pensions in an effort to balance that budget. (This certainly isn’t meant to be a political blog or rant of any sort. I only bring this up because it’s the first type of blatant hypocrisy that comes to mind.) And here’s the scary part…would we act any differently if we were in their place? Who of us wouldn’t use a private jet if we could afford it? Who of us would voluntarily say, “Please, cut my paycheck!”?
 
We are divided at our cores. Who of us can say we have perfectly loved our neighbors as ourselves? Have you ever cried out for more to be done to help the poor and homeless while still living a comfortable life yourself? Have you ever cried out for justice in this world while still knowing you’ve had moments where you’ve been unfair. What’s the point? We are divided. We are inconsistent. We are hypocrites. We believe in justice, and have ourselves been unjust. We believe in peace, and have
ourselves sewn discord. We believe in loving all, and have ourselves shown unkindness to certain people.
 
I recently heard an interview with Dr. Jerry Root. He recounted a time when he was eating lunch at Oxford University. He was asked by a member of the faculty why he was a Christian, knowing the faculty member wanted to have a debate about it. He mentioned that he hadn’t become a Christian till college. And then he said, “But it took at least three weeks before I became perfect.” When everyone busted out laughing he said, “Your laughter betrays you.” He went on to explain that because they all laughed they showed how they all knew it was impossible. No one could be perfect…including them. He went on to explain that we all know deep down that we are divided. We believe in justice and have at times been unfair. We believe in love and have at times been unloving. And he said he couldn’t possibly live without knowing that there is a thing called forgiveness.
 
A Unifying Conclusion
Da Vinci, Plato, Freud, the Apostle Paul…they all knew what we know too. Deep down we are all divided to our soul. We are all hypocrites who believe one thing and do another. Paul is the only one who burst out with complete joy and adoration knowing this when he said, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) Paul rejoiced because he knew that his only hope was forgiveness. And that’s what he saw in the Son of God dying on a cross for him. He saw someone who was never divided. God saw people who turned from him, denied him, abandoned him, even hated him, and he still loved them with an undivided heart. God was committed to justice and to punishing sin, and still was committed to loving the world. In the crucifixion God accomplished both.
 
When you see an undivided love for you in Christ, it changes everything. It gives you the power to love someone, even when there is a part of you saying you should get even. It gives you the resource to be fair, even when there is a part of you that wants the rules bent for your own benefit. It gives you the ability to be forgiving when you see others be unloving or unfair because you know you yourself have committed the same crimes, and yet… you’ve been forgiven.
 
We are a divided as a society because we are divided to our very core. We want morality, and yet we ourselves will break the moral code if it means benefiting our own self. The only unifying solution is a resource so powerful that it heals my deep need to only benefit myself. An undivided love of God alone can do that.