I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ incarnation lately, asking this question over and over: If Jesus was the perfect human – fully obedient to the Father – then isn’t our problem sin and not humanity?
In Western culture, we blame our poor behaviors and faults on being human. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re just human! Cut me a break, I’m human! And in the words of Rag’n’Bone Man, “I’m only human, after all, don’t put the blame on me”.
Even as Christians we tend to use the phrase, “human” synonymously with “broken”, “fallen”, “sinful nature”, and “the flesh”. But, does Scripture?
I was genuinely surprised to learn in seminary that most biblical scholars use the language of “becoming more fully human” as a positive thing. Wasn’t that humanism? While both humanists and Christians use the same phrase, as I understand it the source of humanity differentiates the two.
For Christians, the source of humanity is God. Our view of becoming more fully human is to become more fully restored to the image of God through Christ. Aren’t we already made in the image of God? We are! But think back to Genesis 1-3. God created the first two humans from dust made to uniquely reflect God’s image. God dwelt among them in the Garden of Eden and life was harmonious until, as we know it, Eve was tempted by Satan to sin. Then came the fall; instituting the problem of brokenness, sinful nature, and/or the flesh – the part of us we can’t seem to shake that’s bent towards unrighteousness. Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). The fall twisted the way humans would begin reflecting God’s image.
As I write this, I’m struggling to find a way to communicate how our humanity being a good thing glorifies God. But doesn’t that contradict Genesis 1:27? We were made in our humanity to reflect and represent the Creator to creation. So shouldn’t the conversation around humanity lead to God? The reason it doesn’t is because we are living in a world that’s post-Genesis 3; we took our humanity but removed God from the picture. This is why we need Jesus.
In every respect, Jesus was tempted as we are during His 33 years on earth, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Or, as 1 Peter 2:22 puts it, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth”. Jesus is the only perfect, sinless human. At the same time, Jesus is the only true God (John 17:3). This is precisely why Jesus – fully God, fully man – and Jesus only could pay the wages of sin for all men through death (Romans 6:23). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Philippians 2:5-8 says that though Jesus “was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Being human isn’t synonymous with being “broken,”, “fallen,” having a “sinful nature” or “flesh.” Being human means to be created uniquely in the image of God. As His sons and daughters in Jesus we are becoming more and more like Him, therefore reflecting His image and thus, becoming more fully human.
So, how does realizing humanity isn’t our problem (but sin is) impact our lives?
First, it deepens our worship. Jesus is able to sympathize with us because He knows what it feels like to be fully human (to feel, hunger, sleep, etc.). This makes Jesus feel more real and relatable to us, which then makes our hearts want to genuinely draw near to Him.
Second, it provides clarity. Knowing the difference between humanity and sin frees us up to fight what we actually should be fighting (sin). For example, I used to think I couldn’t fight pride because “I’m only human… I’ll never not be prideful”. Now, I am more consistently confessing and repenting of pride, finding freedom and real transformation towards humility. Pride isn’t an undefeatable part of my humanity; it’s a sin problem to be fought with the grace of God and power of the Spirit.
May the Father reveal His incarnate Son to us more fully this season, and may it deepen our worship with clarity.