A small child made a card for me. On one side of the card she colored a black heart. When she first gave it to me I thought it odd—a black heart. (Maybe she knows me better than I think.) Then I turned the card over and on the other side she had colored a beautiful red, orange, and yellow heart with the words: “Thank you for baptizing me. I am happy that I am baptized.”
Leave it to a child to speak the complicated truth in simple terms and with simple art. All of us have a dark heart and a colorful heart. Even the great Apostle Paul spoke of his sin, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing that I hate” (Romans 7).
Paul was the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The book by Robert Louis Stevenson is about a Dr. Jekyll, who was a good, moral man raised in Victorian England with a strict sense of right and wrong, but who had a dark side, Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll was tormented by evil impulses that he sometimes secretly indulged. And he couldn’t be happy as a good man because of these evil impulses, but he couldn’t be happy as an evil man because of his conscience. As the plot thickened he tried a chemical solution to his problem, which sounds a lot like modern day America. Well, Dr. Jekyll’s experiment failed, and he lost control of when he would be Dr. Jekyll and when he would be Mr. Hyde.
Stevenson’s book is not the end of the story. “The Good Book” has more to say about the subject. The Bible offers the painfully honest, but good news which is that every sinner has a future and every saint has a past. Paul had a past, a bad past. He also had a bright future.
Another great example from the Bible is that of Simon Peter, who plays such a prominent role in the Holy Week story. He had a wonderful nickname, by the way. Do any of you have one? I had a horrible nickname growing up: “Wormy.” I got it because of my awesome build. I was so skinny I only had one stripe on my pajamas. Now that’s skinny. I know the guy who gave the nickname to me and to this day, his picture is on my dart board. I hope that in the next life he pays for giving me such a horrible nickname.
Simon Peter had a nickname, a good one: “Rock.” Guess who gave it to him? Jesus. This is the Simon Peter who in the gospel accounts is proud, boastful and impetuous. This is the same Simon Peter who out of anger, cut off a man’s ear. It was this Simon Peter who would deny Jesus three times like a coward and then run for his life. Simon had a dark side. Simon was Dr. Jekyll one day and Mr. Hyde the next. One day he was a rock and the next day a coward.
But Jesus knew the good and bad in Peter and offered him grace. Jesus said you can call this man “Rock.” Jesus offered him grace and made a changed man out of him.
Someone said, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become what he can and should be.” The truth is, all of us are two persons. We are the person we are, and we are the person we can become.
So, thanks to that child for the card, and on this Good Friday, thanks for the reminder.