Nature and Nurture
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! –2 Corinthians 5:17
About twelve years ago, my family went on vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a wonderful trip and included stops in the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. We stayed in a cabin, deep in the Black Hills, and soaked in the stunning beauty of the area. The Black Hills Spruce is a native tree, known for its short needles and deep-green color. On our last morning there, my children and I borrowed a kitchen knife and went in search of seedlings wanting to migrate to Kansas. We found 5 yearlings, each only a few inches tall, growing in the rocks beside the road – a certain death sentence as they grew. We carefully dug them up, wrapped them in wet paper towels, and placed them in a plastic bag to retain moisture for their journey south. Once home, I replanted them in pots and nurtured them in a protected area near our sunroom.
Today, the four survivors are about 3’ tall and are happy, thriving participants in the Hildenbrand ecosystem. What is interesting about our adopted trees is that they no longer look like Black Hills Spruce, even though that is what they are, genetically. Instead of the short, dark-green needles characteristic of their species, they have longer, bluish needles, much like a Blue Spruce. Clearly, they are still spruce trees, but they no longer resemble their siblings in the Black Hills. Their new environment has changed them into a different version of their old selves. In the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, they have become a new creation!
There is a lot of research regarding whether how we are born – our genetics – or how we are raised – our environment – is most influential towards what we become. Obviously, some things will not change regardless of the environment. My spruce trees will never become oaks, raccoons, or granite statues. Within their genetic make-up, however, they have some flexibility. Becoming a Christian will not convert us, by itself, into a concert pianist or a professional athlete. Following the example of Christ, however, will help us become a more complete version of our self. Just as the new environment changed my spruce trees into something they would not otherwise have become, a good Christian setting will help us grow in ways not likely otherwise. We may look similar, but our lives will turn in a different direction.
My spruce trees were changed from the inside out. Living with God as the center of our lives does the same. We no longer live just for ourselves, or as if this life is all there is. We do not “hang on” for the end of the workday, nor do we simply hope to cruise into the weekend. As new creations, our lives have a renewed purpose and a deeper meaning, and we have a divine legacy to follow. Are Christians perfect? Certainly not, but we have a perfect leader to mold and shape us into useful vessels to carry the kingdom of God.
Come home to church this Sunday. Let the old pass away and become new!
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