“I Did Not Know We Had Ever Quarreled” Lessons from Henry David Thoreau
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:6-8
When I was in High School, some of my friends had interest in a man by the name of Henry David Thoreau. Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, and naturalist of the nineteenth century. His life was marked by a deep love for the outdoors. From hiking to camping to canoeing, he was a pure outdoor adventurist to say the least. Thoreau lived an exciting life motivated by a love for nature. Thoreau even endorsed living life alone and apart from modern society in natural simplicity. His writings total over twenty volumes, many of which have impacted our culture from an environmental standpoint. As a pioneer of the naturalist movement, Thoreau paved the way for much of our contemporary environmental thought today. Some of Thoreau’s writings even reflected spiritual undertones, yet were a far cry from Christian literature. To the contrary; historically Thoreau embraced Darwinism and was a social proponent of anarchism. His life was brief, dying at the young age of forty-four. In his final years, he was a sickly man, battling the residual effects of tuberculosis. In the final weeks of his life, his aunt Louisa asked him if he had made his peace with God. In one of his most renowned quotes he responded by saying, “I did not know we had ever quarreled.”
There are many flaws within this creative yet careless response. Henry David Thoreau failed to understand that man is naturally born at odds with God. Because man is born into sin, he begins his life immediately quarreling with God. In fact, the sinful heart of man is not only quarreling with God, but has a heart raging against God (Psalm 2:1). Particularly in our passage above, the apostle Paul exclaims that as long as one carnally feeds on the fleshly desires of the world and is not born by the Spirit of God, then it is impossible to please God. Why; because the mind of created man is naturally set on being hostile towards Creator God. This means that the mind of man enters into this world arguing with God. We inherit this sin nature from our first parents Adam and Eve. And it is this natural inclination towards sin that sets us apart from God. And the fact is, we cannot be in right relationship with Him until this sin barrier is removed. This is where Jesus enters the picture. His sacrificial death on the cross of Calvary pacified and satisfied the wrath of God against sinful man. Only those who trust Christ for salvation experience a genuine and authentic peace with God. When this peace enters the heart of man, then the quarreling stops.
It must also be noted that there is a dangerous flaw even within the question posed by Henry’s Aunt Louise, when she innocently asked her nephew, “Have you made peace with God?” I am sure most of us understand what the dear old aunt meant. But we must remember that sinful people are so spiritually bankrupt before a holy God, that they cannot “make” peaceful restitution with God on their own. Once again, this is where our Lord Jesus enters the picture. The only peace that can be made with God is though Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Aunt Louise would have been better off asking young Henry, “Have you received the peace that God offers you through His Son Jesus?
It is a sad story. Henry contributed much to our society from a scientific and naturalistic standpoint. But from all appearances, it seems that he was a man who failed to fully grasp the truths of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Don’t let that be your story. When you are asked if you have made your peace with God, don’t try to be a cute wordsmith like Thoreau did. Instead, be ready to share about the joy of Jesus that resonates in your heart (1 Peter 3:15). Tell them of the day you quit quarreling with God, the day Christ calmed your raging heart, and gave you His peace.
– Pastor Eric