I finished reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde today. It’s my second Stevenson book in the last couple months; I read Treasure Island as well. The story surprised me. I knew Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde were the same person, but my concept of their personalities had been crafted by modern interpretation, as opposed to the original text. I was also surprised by the length of the book, a mere 84, small pages; I anticipated a full length novel.
Jekyll was exploring the idea that he has contrasting personalities alive within him: a good one and a bad one. He successfully creates a potion that transfigures his body into a personification of his bad personality and one that restores him to Dr. Jekyll. He enjoys the dichotomy at first, relishing his new-found freedom to satisfy his lust for evil without the fear of consequences. After all, Edward Hyde could vanish without a trace. He gets into trouble when Hyde’s fortitude overwhelms Jekyll and the good Dr. loses control of the situation.
It’s an interesting concept that reminded me of Paul’s writing in his letter to the Romans.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? -Romans 7:17-24 (bolding mine)
Paul’s describing the duality of our natures, the same on Jekyll noticed. Jekyll’s solution was an attempt to surgically remove his Siamese personality and the result was deadly. Hyde was too strong. Paul seems to have come to the same conclusion, that the Hyde in him is too strong, but he discovers that truth by simple self-examination.
Do you mind if I use Jekyll and Hyde to tell a story?
We can all relate to Paul’s dilemma but we rarely come to the same end, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” More often than not we, like Jekyll, attempt to rescue ourselves. We wrongly assume that the good in us far outweighs the bad so we confidently enter what Paul calls a “war.” We may follow the rules well, and keep our inner Hyde from the public eye, but we all know that we aren’t who they think we are. We know we are like Paul and even the good things we do are stained with bad intentions.
When we grow weary of the moralistic in-fighting we will often try something else, religion perhaps. Jekyll’s religion was his potion, a man-made means of behavior control. Jekyll’s concoction and empty religion have the same weakness; they don’t deal with the heart. They just take the undesirable behaviors and try to stifle them, but it’s not worth a dam.
Dam’s are used to stop a river and harness hydro-electric power. They let some of the water through, in controlled increments, but they never truly stop the flow of the water. We all know the scenes when the quaint little village, resting in the shadow of the dam, is destroyed when the dam collapses. Eventually the water wins. This is what happened to Jekyll; he thought he could stick Hyde behind a moral dam but eventually Hyde won.
Evil isn’t something to toy with. We are too susceptible to its advances and when we expose ourselves to it, we are easily swept away. The key is to go for the source, to address the heart. A sincere and humble Paul asks, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
His answer, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul didn’t just try to build a moral dam. He didn’t turn to some potion of religion. He acknowledge that his Hyde was too strong and he let God rescue him. Jesus will return, and plug the evil headwaters once and for all. Until that day, we must cling to our rescuer.
Have you built dam’s in your life? Are you clinging to a potion? Is religion your life-preserver?
If so, can I encourage you to learn from Paul and Dr. Henry Jekyll? Jekyll proved the weakness inherent in our plans, while Paul offers the cure, rescue.
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast – Ephesians 2:3-9