DNA tells us a lot. For example, I share 98% of my DNA with a chimpanzee and 50% with a banana, which explains my family. That said, the Bible says I am formed from dust, so maybe being related to a banana isn’t so bad. Either way, I am reminded of my common origins with the rest of the biological world. I am of the same stuff. I may be more than that, but I am certainly not less.
The Bible uses the word ‘flesh’ to describe our biological selves. Plato saw the flesh as inherently corrupt, but that does not seem to be the Biblical stance. After all, it is part of God’s good creation. However, while neutral in its judgement, it aware of its dangers. This can easily be seen if you consider letting a dog loose in a Butcher’s. You would expect mayhem, not because the dog is bad, but because of its nature. Our flesh may not be sinful, but it sure has a strong pull in that direction: greed, anger, envy, lust, all waiting to rear up and trip us up.
Today, the answer is often to offer counselling to help tame our inner demons, to heal our wounds and make us whole. No doubt it helps, but flesh we remain. I may learn to recognise and repent, but I remain weak. But then, if all we are just our DNA and social conditioning, what else is there?
But this is not all we are. The cross has drawn a line, a line between old and new. Things are not the same. My flesh falls on one side of the line and is, in fact, no longer mine. It was purchased with a high price and I need to stop trying to take it back, leaving it to its rightful owner on the cross. It isn’t mine to fix, I should have been reckoning it as dead. As with most things, there comes a point when they get beyond fixing and need throwing away and replacing. My flesh needs more than a makeover. I need to be more than someone learning to be nice. I have made an exchange: new life for old.
Perhaps I am slow, but I am only just beginning to grasp the meaning of some of this. My experience is still trying to catch up. It remains a mystery: Christ dying on the cross, taking my old life with him. The life I inherited from my DNA and my history, enslaved to sin and death, is my life no more. Yet its time has not fully come and so it lingers, ready to lead me down its slippery path – if I let it. It is no longer who I am and should be left for dead. I need to remember that I have been crucified with Christ, and yet I live. Of course, the fact that I live is another story.