Have you noticed how often we apologize for being human? It’s like we are apologizing for just existing. What else are we supposed to be? Who else are we supposed to be? Even so, we regularly explain our botches, mistakes, and failures with the phrase, “I’m only human.”
It’s curious that we don’t use that same phrase to describe our successes or achievements. We never describe our moments of grandeur, as few and far between as they might feel sometimes, as shining examples of our humanity, do we?
It probably goes back to our theology, because bad theology leads to bad anthropology. To put it another way, when we have a toxic view of God, we will always end up with a toxic view of what it means to be human. The truth, for so many of us, is that this toxicity is baked into the narrative we were given to ground our faith. After all, the first humans sinned, fell from perfection, and that stain of original sin has tainted all of us who’ve followed in their footsteps. We now enter the world totally depraved, separated from God, and deserving of wrath. I wrote about this understanding of sin last week, so I won’t rehash it here, except to say that this isn’t what the Bible actually says. At all. It’s not in there.
The Bible begins with a celebration of humanity. Humans are the image bearers of the Divine, co-creators that join God to lead all of creation toward flourishing and fullness. To be human is good, very good. Being human is the point, it’s who and what we are in this skin to be.
In Christian theology the idea of incarnation, of the Divine being in-fleshed in humanity, is central to the Jesus story. In the human life of Jesus his followers came to experience God. But what if the point being made in the life of Jesus, isn’t that Jesus is unique? What if Jesus isn’t the exception, but the rule? What if we are being invited to see every human life as an incarnation? It’s much easier to worship an example of what we could be than it is to take up the work of living into and out of our potential, isn’t it?
If we begin there, with the goodness of our humanity, it can actually help us understand what’s happening when we harm, traumatize, and wound one another. The problem isn’t our humanity; the problem is that, far too often, we live beneath our good humanness. When we cling to power and allow greed to drive our decisions, we aren’t being human. Far from it. We are dehumanizing ourselves and those we are impacting, at the same time. When we live beneath our humanity that’s when things go off the rails. Naming those attitudes and behaviors as “just being human” is deeply problematic. It’s bad theology that leads to bad anthropology.
Here’s the truth about you:
You aren’t a problem for God.
You aren’t originally sinful.
You aren’t separated from God.
You are a beloved image bearer of God.
You are inherently united with God.
You are a breathing, walking, talking incarnation.
And nothing can separate you from that reality.
The truth is that whatever the Divine is, it always comes to us packaged in the human. People show up for us. People make a casserole and bring it over when we are going through a hard time. People contribute to the Go Fund Me. It’s people who help dry our tears and hug our necks. People. Flesh and blood human beings in all of our incarnational capacity, being present to one another and with one another.
We aren’t “only human.”
No apologies are needed to explain our existence.
We are fantastically, wonderfully, beloved-ly human!
That’s who we are meant to be, nothing more, nothing less.