The New Testament offers a challenging vision of what it means to be truly human.
Too often we reduce the biblical vision of a human life to something much smaller than the high calling of the Scriptures. We fall prey to the illusion that to be human is merely to be moral. Or, we reduce the Christian vision to a program for living as a kind person. Avoid being “bad” (frequently defined in sexual terms), and concentrate on being “good” (defined as performing kind deeds for less fortunate people). These are not bad things and are certainly included in what it means to live a Christian life. But neither the morality, nor the kindness vision is big enough.
To be truly human means to live as people who know themselves to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
In the New Testament to be truly human means –
To be people of:
compassion, peacefulness, steadiness, honesty, openness, freedom, faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy, and justice and respect for all people and for all of creation
To be people who are:
patient, kind, gentle, expansive, spacious, self-giving, humble, dependable, and nurturing to all forms of life.
As we live in alignment with that image of God in which we were created:
We will not worry or be controlled by fear or anxiety. We will be free to live authentically and genuinely without giving in to the pressures, demands, or expectations of any external force.
Our relationships will never fail. We will live in unity and harmony with all. We will not hurt another person or damage creation.
We will not lie. We will never retaliate for any hurt we experience. We will not seek revenge or try to get even when we feel we have been wronged. We will never be violent or speak badly about another person. We will never be judgmental.
We will always be temperate in our words. We will not share harmful words or gossip.
We will not hang on to anger, nor harbour resentment, bitterness, or hurt. We will not take delight in the tragic brokenness that manifests so often when we fail to live fully from that image of God in which we were created.
We will never use another person for our own benefit, or be driven by our own needs, wants and desires. We will never be arrogant, demanding, or rude. We will not demand that life or other people conform to our expectations or wishes.
We will always resist any temptation to excess in gratifying physical desires. We will not use our power to impose our will on life. We will not be greedy or self-serving. We will never be envious of another person who we perceive to be more fortunate.
We will be generous and welcoming, extending hospitality to all, especially those who are the weakest and least revered in the human community. We will care for the oppressed and do what we can to look after anyone we perceive to be our enemy.
Above all, we will live in deep surrender to the power of love and be instruments of peace and reconciliation in every circumstance where the tragedy of human illusion is creating pain and brokenness.
(nb: all the above qualities are directly derived from passages in the New Testament)
Clearly, I never fulfill this vision adequately. I am probably not alone. If I think I can achieve the vision of what it means to be truly human, I have set the standard too low. I need to raise my vision to a point where I am caused to behold the reality of my failure.
So, there is more to say tomorrow about how to respond to the biblical vision of a truly human life.