C.S. Lewis once swapped letters with a friend who had asked him whether he thought Good and Evil to be eternally coexistent realities. Using an analogy from Star Wars, his question was something like whether, in God’s Universe, there are two sides of “the Force” that must always remain in balance: the Light and the Dark. Lewis replied “No.” More specifically, he said that Evil cannot exist on its own. The idea that there can be “no good without evil” or no “light side without a dark side” is definitely wrong, said Lewis.
On the other hand, Lewis asserted that “no evil without good” is definitely true. Evil is just a parasite that survives off of the good. There would be no evil if there was no good that evil could corrupt. Sin would not have come into the world if there had been no God to disobey. The world did not begin Fallen into evil and sin, but Created very good.
This is crucial to understand if we’re to really grasp the significance of humanity’s “fallen condition” and God’s “redemptive solution.” Before the Fall and before Christ’s Redemption, there was humanity’s Creation, and everything about us was good, including our “heart longings.”
By “heart longings” we mean people’s deepest desires, wants, or motives. Heart longings are the deep-rooted needs that drive everything people do. Although the Bible clearly teaches that the hearts of fallen people have become “deceitful above all things” and “desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9), it also strongly affirms the fact that the heart’s deepest desires are good, and that God wants to fulfill them: “Delight yourself in the Lord, in he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).
The problem with heart longings is not that they exist, but that we go about fulfilling them in the wrong ways. Take, for example, our longing for acceptance: deep down God has created in us the desire to know and experience his warm and gratuitous acceptance as his beloved children; but instead of acknowledging his fatherly kindness, we go about trying to find acceptance in every other conceivable way, e.g., earning it through our good works; people-pleasing; selling ourselves out. This is part of our “fallen condition.” It is not that our desires (e.g., acceptance, honor, worth, love, beauty, etc.) are evil, but that they are misdirected. We are “looking for love in all the wrong places.”
The following passage from Lewis illustrates this point remarkable well:
God’s “redemptive solution” is to show us the true way to life and the fulfillment of all our heart longings, and he does so in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus says to all those who are thirsty, “Come to me and drink” (Jn. 7:37) and to those who are wearied by heavy burdens, “I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). Jesus knows people are fallen, but he also knows their deepest longings are good, and he came to meet them.
One important implication of all this is that, when we consider people’s (or our own) fallen condition, we must always also consider the good heart longing(s) that underlie it. The solution to their problem will always mean showing them (not just their sins, weaknesses, etc.) but how to get those heart longings satisfied.