Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels . . ." (2 Corinthians). So often we focus on the "earthen vessels" and the depravity of our humanity. Augustine conceived of "original sin" wherein we are tainted with sin before we are born. This caused the need for infant baptism to assure that the blighted, newborn is cleansed from his/her genetic depravity.

Anabaptists believed that children were innocent until they reached the age of accountability. Pelagius, an originator of Celtic Christian thought, was declared a heretic for attacking Augustine's doctrine of original sin; instead emphasizing the goodness of our humanity through being made in God's image. Sin entered through the development of an individual's ego and socialization into fallen systems.

Because of Western Christianity's emphasis on original sin and the Calvinist corollary of total depravity, I grew up with the focus of being an "earthen vessel." My church, especially during the revivals of the 50s and 60s, reinforced this notion. How I believed in my worminess!

On the other hand, we are made in God's "image and likeness" (Gen. 1:26). This is the "treasure" that we carry in these earthen vessels. Throughout my adult life, I've had to work hard to see this treasure within and to quell the socialized voices that keep appearing. Through work with my dreams, contemplation, music, and other spiritual disciplines I have come to recognize how valuable this treasure is.

But we can't stop with just recognizing our own treasure. We have to see the treasure in others as well. Because of my own socialization, it has been easier to see the earthen vessel in others rather than their treasure. By seeing others' treasure within, we focus on their potential rather than their behavior.

We cannot deny that we are earthen vessels. But let's not get stuck there. Let's focus on the treasure within and our potential as God's good creation.

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