When we hear of our twinclinations — the two tendencies within us all, one toward good and one toward ill — most time is spent on the first. Anyway I’ve spent most of my time on that — on being most concerned over time with what’s good and am I being that, and often justifying what doesn’t quite nail the landing.
Even when we’re aware of and acknowledge the, you know, possibility we might be bad … not something people spend a lot of time on.
The ratio shifts in the quiet of our own garrets (internal and external) but commonly it’s so.
The duality, as the academic might say, or the duality thing, as the academic might say when talking to us, is everywhere from those cautionary tales of dogs tussling inside our souls to a general knowledge that in the moment of choice we, well, have one. The focus on the good I think of from the Tolstoy book title, and its source in scripture —
Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
— which is in Luke and which for the last phrase the ESV notes the alternatives, “Or within you, or within your grasp.” Which of course is part of the ensuing discussion of just what the heck is Jesus talking about? Is He the Kingdom? is it what He brought? is it physically inside everyone?
An á Kempis quote, fairly well known if you know á Kempis, explores the two possibilities in the context of praise and blame —
Praise does not make you holier than you are nor blame more wicked. You are exactly what you are and cannot ever be any better or worse than that in the eyes of God. Attend to what is really within you, then, and you will not care what others say of you.
— which gets us back to both good and bad but even he ends up looking mainly at the good, speaking immediately next of others looking at externals and God knows our heart and so we need not externally generated assurance.
So I started wondering just now about the bad.
The bad doesn’t seem to be mentioned much in these duality discussions; it’s usually about the good and pursuing it and how even when we fail a little-lot … well, God knows our heart.
Which is true but what we’re leaving behind is important too. For one thing it’s often the thing that gets in the way of pursuing the good, though, as better men have noted, it’s more oftenly something average that keeps us from the good. We’re generally not all that, in the good ways.
But bad is what struck me this moment this morning because we’re also not as bad as all that.
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