Facing an Ugly Truth
My daughter Luci has a tender heart. When we are watching a movie with a frightening or repulsive scene, she often covers her eyes. To tell you the truth, much of the time I’m right there with her, not wanting to expose myself to ugly or frightening images that will return to haunt me. But sometimes, when it comes to real life, we have to look repulsiveness straight in the face in order to understand something vital.
That’s why I want to take a moment to look at one of life’s ugliest facts. Imagine a dead animal in the process of rotting. Its guts are spilled onto the ground. Flies are swarming. The smell of decay is overpowering. We gaze with a certain fascination at this spectacle of ruin, looking at something that was once alive but has now fallen into death and corruption, realizing, perhaps, that it is a vision of our own future, a picture of bodily death.
Author Dallas Willard says that “‘corruption’ or ‘coming apart’ is the natural end of the flesh.”(1) The New Testament speaks of the flesh, using the Greek word sarx. In many instances, Paul uses this word to link the flesh with sin, making it a willing accomplice. The flesh, in this use of the word, is not literally a thing of blood and tissue but the principle that inclines us to live according to worldly values. To avoid confusion with other uses of the word, some Bible versions translate sarx as “sinful nature.”
Whenever we calibrate our lives toward the values of this world, we are buying into a fleshly way of life that may feel good now but will ultimately lead to corruption—a coming apart of our souls. It is this decay, this coming apart, that is the opposite of shalom—the peace that brings God’s wholeness and healing.
As Willard points out, the only way to gain life is to embrace the call of Jesus, who said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
(1) Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), 65.