What’s your opinion of people?
- Humans are wonderful. They’re born with so much potential. They have the capacity to make the world a better place by fulfilling that potential.
- Humans are flawed. They’re depraved by nature. They’re incapable of doing good without external help.
- Humans are both wonderful and flawed. They have the capacity for both good and evil.
- Humans are neither wonderful nor flawed. They’re not uniquely different to the other animals with whom they share the earth.
You might want to hone the wording, but which is nearest to your belief?
Millennials have heard (a) all their life. They love to hear preachers like Joel Osteen tell them they’re amazing because that’s how God made them.
Traditionalists have heard (b) all their life. It’s preached in Reformation churches, and implied in liturgies that begin with the prayer of contrition.
Middle-ground people (c) divide the world into goodies and baddies, as do most movies and TV shows.
Secularists (d) take a pragmatic view. Qualitatively speaking, humans are no more privileged or evil than other species.
So how do we manage in a pluralist society where we’re divided over what it means to be human? Last week a Perth man was sentenced for 31 years for murdering his two children to spite his ex-wife. Human beings, especially children, are unspeakably precious. At the same time, human beings are capable of unspeakable evil.
But it won’t do to divide the world into goodies and baddies. The truth is that each of us carries unique value, created in the image of God. And each of us carries scars of hurt and evil as we grow up in this world. We’re conscious of being wonderfully made, and deeply flawed. That’s why we say things like “I’m only human.”
And that’s why we struggle to think of Jesus the way he understood himself — as the human (the son of man). We know Jesus isn’t flawed like us, so how can he be “human”?
From the very beginning, humans betrayed the trust God gave them and grasped power that should have been in God’s hands. As a result, we’d never seen what it means to be truly human. Until Jesus.
Look at Jesus, and you see what human beings were designed to be. Look at Jesus, and you see God imaged in human form. Look at Jesus, and you see God restoring humans to the glory he intended us to bear.
To paraphrase 2 Corinthians 5:21, the one who was unbroken joined us in our brokenness, to restore us to what we were designed to be: God’s goodness.
Want to know God’s view of what it means to be human? Look at the son of man.
What others are saying
Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 659:
… for Barth, we learn about humanity by knowing Christ’s humanity, not vice versa. … Ecce homo means “behold the man,” that is, behold the true man. The community of those “in Christ” reveals in the present age what it means to be in God’s image. Jesus Christ defines humanity, and believers become authentically human in the corporate conformity to Jesus Christ. Thus, Barth integrates Christology and ecclesiology into his meaning of the imago dei.
Paul the apostle, Ephesians 2:15 (NIV):
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity …
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