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On being human

There’s something that offends me about people who impose on me a style of religiosity that makes me feel that I’m no longer very human.  Since I’m a pastor, I think I end up being ‘that guy’ that a whole range of religious people feel that I automatically agree with them about stuff — e.g., that I understand their lingo, that I agree with their disdain for ‘secular’ things, that I always like to talk about ‘church’, etc.  The truth is, I’m not nearly as interested in talking about that stuff as they’d think.  The truth is, I only enjoying talking about ‘church’ so much.  The truth is, I enjoy talking about life a lot more.

I’ve been studying and reflecting on the resurrection for the past few weeks.  And one of the things that I keep rediscovering that the resurrection, as religious of a concept as that is, is really about God making us more, not less human.  And, if I could nail some particularity to this idea — that being ‘in Christ’, that is, the resurrected Jesus, is about becoming human again (or anew).  I think that’s a pretty hard idea to swallow sometimes mainly because it sounds like a rather ‘religious’ idea.  And, I have to say, that it is.  But it is not only a religious idea.  Because, if we can trace this whole resurrection thing, this Jesus thing, all the way back to where it all started — in creation, it’s a lot easier to see that what God has in mind for us is not to join a religion (or whatever other synonymous evangelical phrase you might use) but really to become human again.  God created us as human beings and since the Fall, we have become so much less than human.  That’s the problem.  The problem isn’t that we don’t belong to a certain religion or go to a certain kind of church (although, that ends up being part of it), but from the beginning, the problem has been that we’ve fallen short of our essential humanness.  But, when we are recreated in Christ, we are entering into a new beginning of a new humanity.  We are getting back our humanity.  Scripture calls this the “image of God.”

And so this is partly why I don’t take well to religiosity that denies or denigrates my humanity.  Because the goal is to become human again, not to become suprahuman.  True religion isn’t meant to help us to transcend humanity but to become more fully human.

Now, I know some will naturally feel that I am leaning dangerously toward some sort of humanism.  First of all, I hope it’s clear that I don’t lean toward any “secular” humanism.  But secondly, I don’t mind being called a humanist so long as people understand that I believe that Jesus was the perfect human being.  And by “perfect”, I don’t simply mean that he somehow didn’t have to wipe his ass after he did his business but that he was a human being in the very fullest sense.  Jesus was the human being we were all created to to be.  Jesus was/is the human being we could not be.  And when we are reborn in him, we are inheriting a new genetic code, so to speak, and suddenly placed back on course to becoming human again.  And so, in this sense, God is the quintessential humanist.  And thank God for that.  Thank God that his desire for us was never to become ‘more than human’ but to become precisely human and all the glory, wonder, and beauty that entails.

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5 thoughts on “On being human

  1. so the image of God is humanity? Hmmm interesting. So is God more human… and that’s why Jesus was incarnate..to be more human than any of us? Hmm interesting… So how does this humanity differ from suprahumanity? Suffering? Pain? What does this humanity exactly consist of? I guess the question is, what is human?

  2. @randplaty – Well, I think we need to ask, what really distinguishes us from the rest of creation? I’m sure we can come up with an interesting list, but Scripture seems to point to one thing: that we bear the image of God. Not even the angels seem to be able to make that claim. I wouldn’t say that the image of God is humanity, but I would say that being human means bearing the image of God. When Jesus came in the flesh, yes, I would say that Jesus showed us what it truly meant to be human, that is, he was the perfect image of God.I think digging into a definition for being “suprahuman” might be reading too much into what I’m saying, esp. since it’s sort of said tongue-in-cheek. In my experience, people have often given me this sense that salvation is about transcending humanity rather than becoming more fully human — i.e., it’s really gnosticism. Which is really unfortunate because the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Jesus (not to mention Gen 1 & 2) seem to emphatically underscore God’s commitment to the redemption of what he’s created rather than offering a way out of it.

  3. ok, so being more human kinda means bearing the image of God to the fullest… or consists of that… image bearersAnd Christ bore his image to the greatest extent… and therefore was more human than the rest of us?

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