What motivates us? The theory that man is merely a highly evolved animal would have us believe we're motivated essentially by animal instincts - by a powerful self-preservation instinct or by sex drive. According to this view, no matter how much civilization has modified our behavior or shaped our reason, the animal instinct is below the surface, motivating individual action - sometimes to violent or perverse extremes. Our higher nature can succeed in taming the animal nature or in holding it in check, so the theory says, only with limited success.
Do we have a physical and a spiritual nature, one relentlessly tugging against the other? The Bible shows us that our spiritual nature is actually our original nature, our only true nature. Man, we're told, is made in God's image, and God is Spirit, as the New Testament teaches.
A perception of our actual, original selfhood gives us hope beyond the temporal, mortal views of ourselves, views that tend to discourage and weaken us. It's only through discerning the reality of our spiritual selfhood that we can begin to overcome suffering and fear in a genuine, lasting way. And it's only because the spiritual is the real that we can recognize and express love, honesty, beauty, trust, and other God-derived qualities.
A physical body can't recognize these qualities. Such qualities, however, and not animal instinct, are true power and are at the heart of what might be called our spiritual instinct.
Christ Jesus showed the superiority of spiritual power over ill-motivated acts of hatred, jealousy, and brute force. He showed both the tenderness and the awesome might of a life imbued with an understanding of God's goodness and of man's natural reflection of this goodness. By his living and healing he showed that God alone motivated him.
The Christliness of Jesus' every word and deed helps us to see our own true nature in clearer terms and to expose animal tendencies as foreign to man. Through his life and teachings we can grasp the reality of our spiritual nature.
Our relationships, health, and the other aspects of our lives prosper when we yield to our native spiritual sensibilities. The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, n1 encourages us never to underestimate the healing effects of identifying ourselves with Christliness: ''He that touches the hem of Christ's robe and masters his mortal beliefs, animality, and hate, rejoices in the proof of healing, - in a sweet and certain sense that God is Love.'' n2
n1The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science,
n2 Science and Health, p.569
A young woman was being driven home by an acquaintance she had met at a gathering of friends. He drove to a secluded place and began to assault her sexually. Recognizing that he was physically stronger, she resisted the fear and panic that threatened to take over. She instinctively reached out to God for the saving power she had always relied upon. She knew at that very moment that God was with her and with this man also, controlling and motivating with pure and divine power alone.
She declared aloud statements of man's true, God-given nature, deeply convinced that God's man could be impelled only by goodness, not by animality.
The man stopped and apologized. He politely escorted her home. She remembers this incident with great gratitude for God's ever-present protecting power.
In the book of Revelation in the Bible, John records a heavenly vision revealing the allness of God's power and goodness and the triumph of those who are in accord with it. He describes them as having ''gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark.''n3
Faced with the thought that animal instinct motivates men and women, we can calmly and courageously declare the opposite truth: that God's children have a completely God-derived nature, and that genuine goodness governs their thoughts and actions. There is tremendous power in holding to this fact. To recognize the true identity of ourselves and everyone as the innocent and pure child of God never relegates us to ineffectual naivete. It arms and preserves us.
Recognizing our original spiritual nature helps to eliminate the image of the beast and replace it with the true image and likeness of God. In an increasing degree, then, we are able to contribute to freeing the world from aggressive threats of animality. DAILY BIBLE VERSE As we have borne the image of the earthy we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. I Corinthians 15:49