People are really frustrated with each other right now. There’s no shortage of issues on political, cultural, and personal life levels that can leave you irritated with your fellow human beings. So people scream, they rant on social media, they hit the streets to protest, or they throw their hands up in defeat thinking there’s no way any of this will ever change. One thing we can all pretty much agree on is that we don’t like it. It’s not the way it ought to be. But what do we do about it? Should we try to effect change because humanity is capable of change for the better? Or should we retreat into little pockets of people like us because the world’s going to hell and there’s nothing we can do to stop it?
In other words, should we be optimistic or pessimistic about humanity? In short, I think the answer is: Yes.
On the one hand, we need to be honest about how bad people can be and, in fact, really are. Pastor Mike addresses this in his message for this week. The human heart is thoroughly corrupted. Jesus himself once said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Everything wrong with the world, everything that bothers us, and everything we think should change—its root cause is the human heart. And a human heart is in each of us. (Which means we’re also part of the problem.)
That paints a pretty pessimistic view of humanity. Every baby who’s born is destined for something bad. (It doesn’t take parents very long to realize their kids are anything but little angels.) Try as we might, we can’t fix it. Countries throughout history have tried to wage war on the bad people, thinking only the good ones will be left when it’s over. But they find there are just as many bad people at home as there are abroad. Nations have attempted to set in place the perfect laws for a perfectly just nation, only to find that greed, injustice, and laziness will always be there. People have tried to fix humanity’s problems by setting up the perfect environment for kids to grow up in. They’ve tried to ensure that the right education is offered to everyone. These are noble endeavors, but they can’t fix the root of the problem—human hearts. Humanity will be humanity. Jesus says we should expect human hearts to produce what they produce—evil.
On the other hand, though, followers of Jesus also have the most optimistic view of humanity. How so? They see the course of human history heading, not entirely straight for hell, but toward ultimate transformation. Jesus himself promised, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5). He’s working through the mess of it all to make something new—something so much better. What’s the ultimate proof of that? He rose from the dead. His resurrection to life is the beginning of everything that’s to come. What looks like it’s headed for death and destruction will be transformed. There’s new life in store. New life that means people can have new hearts, perfect relationships, and life to the fullest in a new heaven and new earth Jesus is preparing.
That paints a pretty optimistic view of humanity. Every human being is so valuable that God’s Son bled and died on a cross for all of us. Every person is valuable—of inestimable worth as a special creature of God with an immortal soul. Every single person can live in an existence that is so good and so fulfilling it will only get better as time goes on. We can have new hearts, made alive by a Savior who died for us and came back to life on Easter. Human history is moving somewhere. And it isn’t somewhere random. It’s moving toward something astounding. It’s new. It’s better. It’s remade by Jesus himself. It’s available to everyone. It’s found by trusting in Jesus—the only One who could die for all of humanity because he’s human and God all in one.
So what do you think? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about humanity? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the human heart producing bad things in the world. Let’s be honest like Jesus and call it evil. But know there’s also so much more in store. By being connected to Jesus, there is certain hope for humanity. Believing in him means you can count on something new and better to come.
Believe in Jesus. Be optimistic.