This Side of Perfection is Anyone Fully Human?
Sin and the Corruption of the Divine Image
Most of us have said it at one time or another in attempting to explain a mistake or some unacceptable behavior on our part-- "Well, I'm only human"-- as if our frailties, our shortcomings are the result of our humanity. Wrong!
God created us human. In the saga of the creation of humanity in Genesis, we are human from the beginning. "...then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being," says the first book of the Bible in 2:7. Women and men became living beings-- nephesh hayah in Hebrew. They are human. Moreover, not only are they human they are made after God's own image.
Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.' So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27)
Through millions of years, the divine goal in evolutionary progression was to bring into existence human beings made in God's image, to reflect the divine character in God's world. But something went wrong. We became sinners, and our sin made us less than human, our sin warped, distorted, cracked the image of God in us; and when that happened our humanity lost it fullness. To be sure, human beings still reflect the imago dei-- the image of God as it is expressed in Latin-- but it is blurry. It is rather like looking at our distorted and warped appearance as reflected by the mirrors in a fun house. The problem is that the loss of God's perfect image in us has not resulted in much fun for humanity. When we became sinners we became cracked icons and our sin has made all of us less than human.
And therein is the problem. From a theological perspective this side of perfection, not one of us is fully human. In his book, The Humanity of God, the great theologian, Karl Barth writes,
What is the humanity of God? It is God dealing with humanity. It is wrapped up in his deity. God's deity cannot be properly understood without his humanity. The whole of God's activity toward women and men is his humanity.
We are human precisely because we are made in God's image, and when sin distorts that image we become less than human. It is, therefore, no surprise that Jesus Christ, the God/Man becomes the remedy for our less than human condition. In all of its mystery, Jesus is fully the presence of God with us, which makes him fully human; and it is the fullness of his humanity that allows the very presence of God to dwell in him. In Jesus, God has come to restore our humanity and the image of the divine in us. As God is working to restore the divine image in us, he is working to restore our full humanity. Until that takes place the image of God in us remains cracked and our humanity does not measure up to the fullness God intends.
The New Testament does not say that Jesus died to remove our humanity; he died to take away our sin. The problem is not that we are human. The problem is we are sinners; and that we are still sinners means that what it means for us to be fully human in the present remains a hope for the future.