I went to an incredible conference this past weekend (www.ila-net.org). En route to San Diego, I ended up sitting next to this guy who sneezed the entire trip. I’m now the proud owner of a Z-Pac and the hope that this antibiotic will kick the bug that’s making my throat hurt and my ear ache. I was fine through the conference, but began to notice I was feeling under the weather on the way home.
Feeling icky lowers my tolerance. The *other* guy who sneezed (without so much as covering his nose)… the older man who wandered into a busy ladies bathroom… the guys in the back of the plane who got rowdy to the point where I was surprised the Air Marshalls weren’t called… for all these folks and any others that dared to cross my path, I had no tolerance. I sat and pouted and decided that John Calvin must have developed his theology of total depravity whilst sitting in an airport. After all, I was doing a fine job developing my own similar theory. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t plane travel I despised… it was people. Healthy thoughts for a member of the clergy, no?
Calvin wasn’t the only Reformer to suggest that humanity is totally depraved – look a-ways back to our old friend Augustine, and you’ll read similar overtones.
Depravity, we get, I think. We see enough (and know ourselves) to connect the dots. TOTAL depravity irks us a bit. Heck, irks ME a bit. You see, the idea of total depravity (as I understand it) is that there’s not a whit about me that hasn’t been touched by this.
You see my problem? I mean, okay… there are areas of my life that are pretty depraved (no details, and you’re welcome!). However, like most folks, I like to think that there are parts of me where I’m downright decent. I’m friendly, and I’ve got a great sense of humor… just don’t catch me when I’m under the weather and sitting in an airport.
See? No part of us escapes.
As I sat there scowling at the depravity of my fellow passengers, my own depravity was gaining ground. And I fed it. Lots. Soon, it was the girl sitting next to me that was chewing gum that annoyed the heck out of me… and heaven help the toddler a few seats ahead of me. Bit by bit, I allowed this attitude of annoyance that really isn’t me to creep into my and become me. That’s total depravity. That’s sin. And it got to the point where I really, REALLY wasn’t feeling any love toward my neighbor (nor, if I’m honest, to the One who created them either).
Fortunately, there’s a counter to total depravity: Grace.
Grace abundant. For the sneezer and infector, for the girl with the bubblegum and the poor confused man in the women’s room. Grace for the tired and hurting pastor who simply wants to get home… and who has lost a bit of herself somewhere on the way. Grace for the folks who did all the negative campaigning, and Grace for those who lost/won. Grace for the nurse who refuses quarantine, and Grace for those who would lockdown every border.
Grace that is sufficient. Grace that is enough. Grace that is beyond amazing…
For if we are totally depraved, incredibly, we are still totally loved (and loveable) because of God’s Grace. And, miraculously? That includes not just the list of folks that annoyed me that day… but it includes ME as well!
(And now, feeling better about the state of the world and my own soul, I’m grabbing some hot tea, watching some Downton Abbey and waiting for the antibiotics to kick in like the Grace of God).