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Sons of God or Animals in a Jungle by Maxie Dunnam

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Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.

I John 3:2


“The world is still a jungle, Maxie. Man is still an animal in that jungle. The only difference is that the jungle is not as wild as it was in the past, and the animals are a little more refined.” This word came out in a recent conversation. Because of the source and the setting, it grabbed my attention in an unusual way.

In my morning devotional time of Scripture, a different kind of word has been my prayerful focus in 1 John, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”

The person who spoke the ‘animal-in-a-jungle’ word was an earnest-minded young man, a brilliant professor in a state university. His keen intellect is matched by a dominating concern for humanity. His major discipline has been a study of the history of mankind. This should equip him to speak with convincing arguments concerning the epic of man. So, he concludes, “The world is still a jungle. Man is still an animal in that jungle.”

This was no sophisticated egghead speaking; not one who scorns the essence of Christianity. Granted, he looks askance at organized religion today and argues that we have taken the form of religion and made it the essence of the faith. This was one who is sincerely seeking a solution to the dilemma of our times, one who is searching for answers to the great questions of life. We can listen to him because he is sincere. He is not flaunting some rebellion against childhood religion. And he certainly isn’t comfortable in his convictions.

The question is, is he right? Is the world still a jungle? Is man still an animal in that jungle – sophisticated maybe; reined perhaps – but still an animal? 

If my friend is right (and I can’t muster much effective argument against him) he is right because man has not become what he was intended to become. And he is right only in assessing a situation, not in defining a destiny. Man may live like an animal in a jungle, but it is by choice that he does so. This is not God’s intention; it isn’t the pattern Jesus set. 

We are right in emphasizing Jesus as the incarnation of God; but we must not lose our understanding of him as the incarnation of man. Jesus is the proper measurement of man’s destiny, what man ought to be. 

Jesus has proved that man does not have to live as an animal in a jungle. The gospel writer said of him: “He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25 RSV). If he had not felt the way he did about man’s nature, it would be the difficulty, nay, the impossibility of the ages, to account for what he said and what he did for man’s redemption.

Heinrich Heine, famous German poet, once said, “I, too, might have died for men if I had not the suspicion that they were not worth it.” Was Jesus’ work the sentimentalism of one who had put too high a value on man? Was it the heroism of a stoic defying the fate which was destroying him? Or was it the redemptive love of one who knew what was in man and moved out to meet it, calling out the best that is within us?

This was a part of my conversation with my friend. When we answer these questions aright we can come to a proper judgment of man – ourselves included. Then we will not remain an ‘animal in a jungle.’ We can claim our status as a child of God, redeemed by Christ.

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