Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote a three-part drama about the cycle of violence and revenge that began when Atreus, King of Argos, murdered two sons of his brother. He then—holding a great banquet—fed their cooked flesh to the unknowing father. In this immediate context, that of human depravity, the chorus in the play afterward sang about a shepherd who reared a lion cub in his own home, a gentle creature whom the family loved and cared for until one day, showing “the nature of its kind,” the lion ripped them all to shreds:
“The whelp once reared with lambs, now a grown beast,’
Fulfills his nature as Destruction’s priest!
Though pagan, Aeschylus made a very biblical point: humans are evil and, placed in the right circumstances, each of us will, like the lion, show “the nature of its kind.”
Interestingly enough, about 500 years after Aeschylus, the apostle Paul drew a similar conclusion about humans: “No one does good, not a single one. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all” (Romans 3:12-18, NLT).
Do we, today, in the 21st century, need any reminders of human evil? Hardly. And we don’t need to read the news, either, to know just how real it is. Instead, all we have to do is look in the mirror, or even more painfully, into our own hearts.
And yet, amazingly enough—despite this evil, God loves the world (John 3:16) which means, really, that He loves each one of us, even with the darkness that lurks within each of us. The ultimately question for any of us, all of us, is how do we respond to that love? Do we accept what that love offers us—eternal life—and, in response, love God back and show that love by obeying His commandments (1 John 5:3), or do we not? On this question, the literal and heavy burden of eternity weighs in—and big time, too. In fact, if you think about it, it doesn’t get any bigger than that, does it?