An indomitable human spirit: good, bad or neutral?

The television screen displayed a would be narcissistic tyrant berating his listeners while demanding their obeisance.  Throughout the movie this villain, who viewed himself a god, now proclaimed people are born to serve.

The heroes, filled with an indomitable human spirit, save the day because they refuse subjugation. One of the heroes smacks the tyrant around before muttering, “puny god.”

While exploring the producer’s intent behind this scene would be interesting, a more intriguing question is: Is an indomitable human spirit good, bad, or neutral? Such a question deserves a context to avoid over-simplification. 

Consider the context of discipleship. We probably all know some people whose spirit is untamable. They insist upon living life according to their own understanding and desires.

During his ministry Jesus called people to deny themselves and to daily pick up their crosses in order to follow him (Luke 9:23). Later Peter summed up what is required for someone to become a disciple. He called the crowd to rely upon Jesus, whom God had made both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36,38).

Paul was even more blunt about Jesus’ lordship. “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

From Romans we learn two truths about those who refuse to submit to God’s salvation and Christ’s leading. First, they are not truly free, but have enslaved themselves to a life ruled by sin. Second, their choice is both foolish and rebellious before their Creator, who will give them over to reaping the consequences of their ways.

In this context, an indomitable spirit is bad. Wisdom accepts God’s gracious love toward us by submitting to Christ as Lord.

Now consider the context of faithful endurance. We remember evil’s desire to crush Job’s faith. Have we experienced or witnessed distressing trials challenging an allegiance to God?

God is worthy of an unrelenting devotion. And scripture repeatedly extols an inextinguishable faith. God comforts and can strengthen us if we rely upon him (2 Corinthians 1:3-10; Jude 1:24). Hebrews commends those who have faithfully pressed forward in spite of harrowing experiences (Hebrews 11:37-39).

Refusing to succumb to Satan’s tactics to extinguish faith is commendable. In such a context, to possess an unrelenting spirit is good.

From just these two contexts it would appear that an indomitable spirit is neither always good nor bad. What a person is resisting determines whether being relentless is a vice or a virtue. When it comes to submitting, let’s make sure our knee is bent before our only hope for approaching the Father.

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