Invictus: Unconquered or conquered soul?

The other day I was suddenly stopped in the middle of my golf set up and accused of hitting someone with a golf ball on the driving range. The victim that approached me insisted that I was to blame because apparently his buddies, who were eyewitnesses to the incident, had told him that I was the culprit. I was impressed that they could even identify me from a distance of about 100m, with about 20 other golfers hitting in the same direction. Go figure! Why am I telling you this story? Because I think that we have all experienced false accusations made against us and our natural reaction is to defend ourselves. After defending myself profusely and then telling him that I wanted his buddies to meet me with the manager so that I could declare my case before him, he finally apologised for the misunderstanding and left me alone- yet with an elevated heart rate!

The Bible on the other hand states that there is no defending our innocence, with regard to sin, before an all-seeing and all-knowing God. Yet man has tried too many times. Take for example, the first man and woman who God created- Adam and Eve. Where do we find them after they had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from which God commanded them not to eat? Hiding (Gen 3:8). What do we find them doing when God asks them “Who told you that you were naked?” Trying to defend their innocence of course. Instead of accepting responsibility for their actions they end up blame-shifting each other in the Garden of Eden. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent (Gen 3:12-14). And mankind has continued to shift the blame for his sin ever since.

William Earnest Henley, wrote a poem entitled ‘Invictus’ whilst fighting against tuberculosis of the bone for 13 years. After losing one of his legs at the age of 25 he wrote Invictus as an expression of his response to the challenges of life. Nelson Mandela was greatly inspired by the Victorian poem whilst he was in prison on Robben Island. Invictus is Latin for ‘unconquered’. The poem calls people to a self mastery of themselves to be able to transform life’s challenges into positive self- propellants. The last two lines of the poem come to a climax and declare, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” While I respect the spirit in which this poem was written I do not agree with its message because it is the very same message that the serpent sold Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Do you know what the devil promised Eve in the Garden? No it wasn’t a bite from the forbidden fruit. He promised her power or, in the words of Invictus, to be ‘the captain of my soul’ (Genesis 3:1-5). On that fateful day Adam and Eve went on a power trip that not only affected them but all of mankind that would descend from them (Romans 3:23). As a result you and I have been infected with the Invictus sickness having inherited a sin nature. Listen to what the Bible says in Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are not sinners because we sin; but we sin because we are sinners. Adam and Eve chose that day to be the captains of their own soul, but what they experienced was a ship-wreck. In other words they carried guilt, shame, and ultimately death with them to shore. The Bible says that sin leads to death- spiritual and physical (Romans 6:23; James 1:14-15).

My friends God created Adam and Eve to have fellowship with Him. What an incredible privilege! Like Adam and Eve however, we’ve been sold the lie that we are the masters of our fate, that we have the power to overcome sin and that we are the captains of our own souls. The truth is pride comes before the fall! (Proverbs 16:18). Lucifer, Adam and Eve fell because of pride. Pride has been stitched into our genes causing us to become self- inflated and self- infatuated. Yet we don’t need to remain unconquered but can choose to entrust ourselves to the true Captain of our souls-Jesus Christ- who conquered death, sin and the devil on our behalf (Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 Cor 15:56-57).

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