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Created: What It Means to Be Human and in the Image of God

What does it mean to be human?

Perhaps this seems like an unnecessary question because humans are simply what we are. Yet, the circular logic of “I am a human; and, a human is what I am” doesn’t get us very far in understanding what it means to be human. Even more, developing richer answers for what it means to be human and in the image of God can help us grow in our relationship with God.

“What does it mean to be human?” is an important question because there are plenty of voices giving answers. For example, in 2016, British singer Rag’n’Bone Man released a song called “Human.” In it, he plays with the line, “I’m only human, after all” in repeated scenarios that convey this idea: to be human is to be fallible and apt to hurt others. Thus, he sings, “Don’t put the blame on me” because “I’m only human, after all.” Likewise, 17th Century poet Alexander Pope coined the phrase, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” in “An Essay on Criticism.” Over three hundred years pass between these artists, yet they both play with the idea that to be human is to be broken, sinful, and awful. Moreover, if this is who we are, by definition, as humans, then there’s really no point in trying to be anything other than broken, sinful, and awful: it’s written into the very nature of our being.

But this is precisely not what we believe as Christians; we must believe that being human is something more than our sin. After all, since Jesus was fully human and was, according to Peter and Paul, without sin (1 Pet 2:22; 2 Cor 5:21), Pope and Rag’n’Bone Man must be missing something. There must be another way to understand what it means to be human that adds meaning and purpose to our lives, and, indeed, calls us to a particular way of living.

This season’s sermon series will explore what it means to be human and in the image of God. Its six sermons, beginning April 16, will seek to help us see and know the character of God, God’s intent, purpose, or calling for the creatures called humans, and some ways God empowers us to live into God’s image revealed fully in Jesus. The sermon series will be especially grounded in Genesis 1-3 with additional scriptures to help us see ourselves through God’s vision. The series will explore the following themes:

  • Created…in the Image of God

  • Created…for Care of Creation

  • Created…for Nakedness (or vulnerability and connection)

  • Created…for Walking with God

  • Created…for Clinging Kinship

  • Created…for Fruitfulness.

I invite small groups, or individuals, to use Sunday’s Engagement Sheets (bulletins) as a tool for spiritual discussion and reflection. The sermons will help us explore and shape our answers, but there will always be more for us to develop. Genesis 1-3 is a great start for personal or group study alongside the series. If you’d like additional resources for reading, please check the church library and/or talk to one of the pastors.

Finally, to get us thinking about what it means to be human and in the image of God, here are two things to be pondering.

First, Jesus is the full image of God in whose likeness we are growing by the sanctifying grace of God (Heb 1:1-3; Col 1:15; Rom 8:28-29; 2 Cor 3:18-6, 1 Cor 15:49). In what ways does Jesus show us what it means to be fully human and created in the image of God? What about Jesus’ way of being human is prescriptive for all people in all times?

Second, is “human” something more than a biological category, such that we could, in fact, grow to be more fully human? How do our sources of knowledge – biological, scriptural, theological, psychological, etc. – help us to answer, “What does it mean to be human?” And, what conclusions is God leading us toward in our understanding of God, God’s vision for us, and the ethics or morality of discipleship?

I look forward to this journey with you.

Peace, Matt

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