Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

The Two Sides of Man

The Two Sides of Man

The idea that man is often torn between two conflicting sides is a common experience. Various movies or cartoons have pictured a character with a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, whispering into the ear why this course of action is better than that. Some say it is as if we have two dogs fighting inside us: a good dog and a bad dog — and the dog that wins is the dog that we feed. Ultimately, a number of these illustrations must become back to the fact that Scripture speaks of a similar battle:

  • “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another” (Galatians 5:17).
  • “I find then this principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good” (Romans 7:21).
  • “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

The Two Adams

David Brooks, on the website gave a speech entitled, “Should you live for your résumé... or your eulogy?”  In this speech he cited a Jewish rabbi by the name of Joseph Soloveitchik, who had written a book in 1965 called “The Lonely Man of Faith”. Here is what Brooks said about what this author had written,

“Soloveitchik said there are two sides of our natures, which he called Adam One and Adam Two. Adam One is the worldly, ambitious, external side of our nature. He wants to build, create, create companies, create innovation. Adam Two is the humble side of our nature. Adam Two wants not only to do good but to be good, to live in a way internally that honors God, creation and our possibilities. Adam One savors accomplishment. Adam Two savors inner consistency and strength. Adam One asks how things work. Adam Two asks why we're here. Adam One's motto is ‘success’. Adam Two's motto is ‘love, redemption and return.’

Which Do We Think About More?

As the title of the speech suggests, instead of Adam One and Adam Two, Brooks contrasts resume virtues and eulogy virtues. Here is how he explains the difference: 

“The résumé virtues are the ones you put on your résumé, which are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned in the eulogy, which are deeper: who are you, in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consistency? And most of us, including me, would say that the eulogy virtues are the more important of the virtues. But at least in my case, are they the ones that I think about the most? And the answer is no”.

From a Christian Perspective

I would add that for the Christian many of my “resume virtues” should be very similar to my “eulogy” virtues. That is, when I work, I need to be working as if I was working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23). I understand what Brooks is saying, in my eulogy there is no need to say something like, “He was proficient in Excel” or he had this or that certification or license. Yet I hope that both my resume and eulogy agree on the fact that I was diligent, resourceful, kind, energetic, honest, and dependable.

The War

As noted previously, the Bible honestly speaks about the conflict between walking by the Spirit or walking by the flesh, “So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:25).

Brooks observes that “Soloveitchik argued that these two sides of our nature are at war with each other. We live in perpetual self-confrontation between the external success and the internal value. And the tricky thing... about these two sides of our nature is they work by different logics. The external logic is an economic logic: input leads to output, risk leads to reward. The internal side of our nature is a moral logic and often an inverse logic. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer the desire to get what you want. In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself”.

The World in Which We Live

“We happen to live in a society that favors Adam One, and often neglects Adam Two. And the problem is, that turns you into a shrewd animal who treats life as a game, and you become a cold, calculating creature who slips into a sort of mediocrity where you realize there's a difference between your desired self and your actual self. You're not earning the sort of eulogy you want, you hope someone will give to you. You don't have the depth of conviction. You don't have commitment to tasks that would take more than a lifetime to commit” (David Brooks).

I would argue that mankind has most likely always lived in world that favors Adam One, this was certainly true in the First Century (1 John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1-2), fortunately, those that love God seek His favor over and above the favor of mere fellow humanity.  

How To Build an Adam Two

“I was reminded of a common response through history of how you build a solid Adam Two, how you build a depth of character. Through history, people have gone back into their own pasts, sometimes to a precious time in their life, to their childhood, and often, the mind gravitates in the past to a moment of shame, some sin committed, some act of selfishness, an act of omission, of shallowness, the sin of anger, the sin of self-pity, trying to be a people-pleaser, a lack of courage. Adam One is built by building on your strengths. Adam Two is built by fighting your weaknesses. You go into yourself, you find the sin which you've committed over and again through your life, your signature sin out of which the others emerge, and you fight that sin and you wrestle with that sin, and out of that wrestling, that suffering, then a depth of character is constructed. And we're often not taught to recognize the sin in ourselves, in that we're not taught in this culture how to wrestle with it, how to confront it, and how to combat it. We live in a culture with an Adam One mentality where we're inarticulate about Adam Two” (David Brooks).

Your Signature Sin

I believe that Brooks is right that changing yourself means confronting the signature sin in your life, and that all the other sins are somehow related to that sin. And that, in our culture today, we are taught to ignore such a sin, maybe even be proud of it, defend it, and attack anyone who even attempts to draw it to our attention.

Sin’s Web of Interconnections

Here we see the danger of downplaying a sin, for one sin easily transitions into, and reinforces another sin. May we always remember that virtues work in the opposite direction. One virtue backs up, strengthens and leads to other virtues. This is easily seen in the definition of love given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 where love as a virtue is actually composed of a number of other virtues, like kindness, humility, honesty and patience.

The Value of Wrestling

It is so sad that God is often blamed for this or that, or viewed as a cruel bully, when in reality God is at times just about the only one who actually does believe in me — and has told me so. Others may not believe in my ability to change, and I might even question my chances of success, but God believes in me! 

  • There is an urgency in such wrestling, for how can I help anyone else find freedom if I am still a slave?
  • There is nothing like a successful example. Too often we tend to believe the “experts” rather than seriously considering the example of victorious living of “non-experts”. Be inspired by those around you who have overcome.
  • The good news is that this struggle does not have to result in a tie everyday or a win that is barely a win. 
  • When you or I get a handle on our signature sin — it gives us the momentum we need to, through Christ's strength, change anything about ourselves. I am not the victim or helpless pawn of genetics, my upbringing, or my past. 
  • Our help in victoriously living a life of virtue comes from the hand of an omnipotent God. We have Jesus who died to remove our sins, giving us the permission to walk away with a fresh start and sin no more (John 8:12).

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017