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Thursday, 24 December 2015

True Humanity

   If we believe that Jesus came into the world, in part, to live the life of a perfect human being, then even his birth tells us something about what is good about being human.  That's where I will begin in this reflection.

  • Jesus was born as helpless and dependent as any infant.  Being helpless and dependent is part of being human.  It occurs early in life; it often occurs at the end of life.  For some dear human beings, helplessness and dependency accompany them their entire journey of life.  However, it does not make them less human.  Various forms of vulnerability are part of our humanity, and we should not see them in and of themselves as things to avoid at all costs.  
  • Jesus set aside his power [1] when it would make him selfish.  When I use the word power here, it includes such things as the potential for fame, knowledge and wisdom, ability to do miracles, authority over angels, and privilege as the son of God.  He had various things at his disposal, which he could have used to give himself a more comfortable life, but he refused to do this kind of thing. Satan tempted him three times in the wilderness to use his power to take a short-cut from God's purpose and plan.  What we can learn from this is that just because we may have certain forms of power (status, citizenship, possessions, position, wealth, opportunity), we are not to grasp these things for selfish ends.  Self-denial shows true humanity.
  • Jesus used his power to bless others.  When I use the word power here, I am thinking of his power of speech, his love, his authority, his heritage, his patience and his masculinity. He used the power of speech to convey truth to people confused and abused by previous teachers.  He used the power of love to forgive the sin of paralyzed man prior to healing him. Jesus used the power of his authority to answer the tough questions of Pharisee, Saducee and Herodian alike in order to set things right.  He used the power of his heritage to connect the writings of Moses, David and the prophets with his ministry.  He used the power of patience to endure all the hardships brought upon him because of the fallout of sin.  He used the power of his masculinity to show honour, respect and protection for men, women and children.  The very reason God has endowed humans with various "powers" is for the benefit of others around them.
  • Jesus represented God in the world.  In the beginning, God made humans in his own image, to represent him on earth and care for fellow creatures.  This high calling had been marred and stained by sin.  Sadly, when pundits say that humans are more cruel to each other than animals are, they are right.  Humans will cut down others who get in their way to attain manifold forms of power: even worthless possessions, fleeting fame, and the first place in a line-up.  However, Jesus came as the "image of the invisible God" [Colossians 1:18].  Jesus was greatly concerned with God's intentions for right living and stewardship of power--image bearing.  That image bearing comes at the intersection of fully recognizing both our power and our weakness.
  • A common way to refer to humans is to call them "mortals."  That is, they have a life span that will come to an end.  Jesus' human lifespan was just over three decades in length.  At cemeteries we can find tomb stones for those who lived just days or months and ranging all the way to those who saw beyond their ninetieth year.  Jesus' life and sacrificial death made a way to attain something more--eternal life.  In the book of Revelation, He promises to those who remain faithful to him that they will "have the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" [Revelation 2:7].  When Jesus rose from the dead, he had a body that would not deteriorate or decay.  In the resurrection at the fulfillment of all things, our physicality as humans will be affirmed and brought to its highest and best expression.  

[1] I am indebted to Andy Crouch's book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (2013).  His way of describing what power is led to this train of thought being further developed by me.

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