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Defeating Hyde



I have never been a big reader of fiction. However, I enjoy the occasional fiction story with theological implications, such as C.S. Lewis’s classics The Screwtape Letters or The Chronicles of Narnia. I also enjoy good works of fiction inspired by Scripture. A particular passage of Scripture possibly inspires two classics (There are probably others). In Romans 7, we find a passage known as “The Jekyll and Hyde” passage. This passage of Scripture (Romans 7:14-25) has been debated for millennia. No matter how we view this passage of Scripture, Christ is the solution to the problem of sin. The classics I refer to are The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. I recently purchased these books in the original text and gave them a read. These stories are classics for good reason. They were well worth my time, and I can see the possible inspiration from Paul’s challenging passage.

                  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in 1886. In his story, Dr. Jekyll is an upstanding community member with a darker side. His darker side is Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll initially flirts with this darker side and allows Hyde to emerge. Hyde looks different than Jekyll, causing his appearance to be so disfigured that those around him fail to recognize that Hyde is, in fact, Jekyll. As Jekyll feeds this monster inside, Hyde becomes strong enough that Jekyll loses control of it. Jekyll learns he can no longer defeat Hyde and takes his own life. This story shows what can happen when we feed this darker part of us. Dr. Jekyll could not stop Hyde on his own.

Mary Shelley wrote her classic Frankenstein in 1818. Victor Frankenstein is on a quest to learn, experiment, and do something no one else has ever accomplished. Victor dabbles with crossing the line and does so when he creates his monster. Frankenstein’s monster comes to life, and Victor immediately knows he has accomplished something very evil. He tries to ignore and avoid his creation; however, the monster will not disappear. During his years of rejection and isolation, the monster comes up with an idea. He desires Victor to create a female version of himself and reveals his demand to Victor. If Victor fails to comply, his monster threatens to make his life miserable, going wherever Victor goes and taking everything precious to him. The monster tells Victor, “You are my creator. I am your master; obey!” Victor agrees to fulfill the monster’s desire but changes his mind once he begins creating. Victor destroys what he started in front of his monster. The monster is faithful to his promise and begins to haunt Victor, murdering everything he loves and making his life miserable. The monster even murders Victor’s bride on their wedding night. Victor has created an uncontrollable monster. Victor sets out to destroy his foe, leaving his life to chase after his creation in a barren, frozen wilderness. Victor dies before he can catch and kill the monster. We get an idea from this story about what can happen when we cross the line. Victor created a monster that he could not do anything about. We also see that Victor could not defeat his monster on his own.

It is not difficult to see that Romans 7 could inspire both classics. 

For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate. However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:15-24 NASB)

                 The truth is that all of us have a monster to deal with. Paul uses the Greek word Sarx ninety-one times in his letters. Sarx means flesh. This word is used in various ways, but Paul primarily uses it when referencing the sinful nature of humanity, the monster that must be dealt with. Whether it is an uncontrollable temper, lust, or some other thing that we seem to have no control over. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to defeat our flesh or sin-nature. The reason for this is because you can’t defeat that monster inside. It is impossible because you are weak and helpless (Romans 5) and need the help of Someone much more significant than you, Christ.

                 How do we keep from submitting to our sinful nature? For those who seem to have figured out the solution, defeating our “Hyde” is a continuous battle. While we could look at multiple passages of Scripture, I will reveal two that reveal to us the solution we need. First, Paul tells us, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16 NASB). The more I satisfy my flesh, the more I will need to satisfy my flesh. However, the more I follow God and pursue the things of God, the weaker my flesh will be. Paul offers us a simple idea, but fulfilling his instruction may not always be easy. There will always be times when we do not feel very spiritual. We will have moments of weakness that cause us to pursue things our sinful nature desires. We must follow God’s Spirit, but we understand that we are weak, helpless, and ultimately fall short and need some help. There seems to be a cycle of struggle in the life of believers—a cycle of discouragement from failure but one of celebration when we see some kind of victory. Our failure is because we try to defeat “Hyde” alone. Once again, we are not good enough! We need help.

                 The Gospel Truth is that we have help if we will accept it. God did not leave us to fight on our own. He did not leave us out here to die in a struggle with our flesh. While some may fight alone and even die in the battle, God does not intend it to be that way. If you are like me, you can feel the pain of the Apostle’s struggle. I know the frustration that comes from trying to defeat “Hyde” on my own. Paul pleaded, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24 NASB). Sadly, many will stop and focus here, making an excuse for submitting to temptation. The Gospel is good news, but this verse reveals terrible news. If we stop with this verse, we are left with a seemingly hopeless individual. Sadly, some are living in a place where Paul seems to be. Fortunately, Paul is not finished communicating, and we should not be finished reading. Paul asked, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” then answered, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24b-25a NASB).” Did you catch that? Freedom from “Hyde” is found in Christ. How do we defeat “Hyde”? We can’t, but He can! How do we find victory over the monsters that we have created and allowed to become strong? Dr. Jekyll nor Dr. Frankenstein could accomplish victory over their monsters, but through Christ, we can find victory. Thank you, God, for your freedom and hope through Christ!

 

In Christ,

Pastor Josh May

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I am no expert in literature and do not claim to be. However, I am theologically trained and offer a theological connection between the two classics and what Paul teaches us.

 

 

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