Survival Instinct

by Jeff and Jana Galt 

If man had been created without an innate survival instinct we probably would have joined the dinosaurs long ago.  In most situations, this tendency to cling to life, to will to live, would be considered a positive trait.  Endurance tells the true story of Earnest Shackleton’s voyage to the South Pole nearly 100 years ago.  His heroism in the face of near certain death is an inspiration to all.  His will to live, along with that of the men who accompanied them, enabled every man to survive despite the odds.

Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini who survived more than 40 days adrift in the Pacific without food or water only to face imprisonment in Japanese internment camps for the duration of World War II.  He survived because of his determination to live.

But like so many things, Satan can twist a positive attribute to suit his own purposes.  Have any of us cringed in terror about being called out for something we’ve done?  Have we ever felt relief when someone else is blamed for our mistake?  It can be tempting to keep silent.  It’s natural.  Our survival instinct can cause us to find safety in deflecting attention to someone else.

Our family loves the book and play, Les Miserables.  In one of the most significant scenes, Jean Val Jean confronts the question, “Who am I?”  He wrestles strenuously with the pros and cons of letting an innocent man take the blame for his past crimes.  His reasoning is strong and nearly convincing: that “the greater good” would result from allowing the injustice to proceed.  But ultimately, he realizes that gain would come at the cost of his integrity.  Despite the terrible consequences and threat to his own survival, he accepts the blame and bears the punishment.

But what do we make of this Jesus of Nazareth?

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53: 4,5

Righteousness is accepting our own guilt in spite of the consequences.  Love is accepting the blame on behalf of another.  Pure love is taking on the sins of others despite your own perfection.

Being made in God’s image seems to mean striving for something far more important than survival.