Rooted 3 Being Human
- What are your best points?
- What things about yourself are you not so keen on?
We now come to look at who we are in a bit more detail. What does it mean to be human? Is there purpose to life? If there is purpose and meaning then why do we seem to mess it up so often? Why is it that we can be passionate, caring, loyal, dedicated, loving one minute and the next we can be apathetic, letting down those closest to us, hurting those we love the most?
A Look at the Bible
Read Genesis 1:26-28
- How does the Bible describe humans?
- What are the first humans told to do?
- How does sin (rebellion and disobedience against God) come into the world?
- What are the consequences of sin
Read Romans 5:15-19
- What solution is offered?
The Bible insists that we have one common ancestor and all that is good about the human race and all that is wrong with it goes back to him. In the beginning, God made man and woman in his image. The phrase “in his image” is incredible. It essentially means that there are character traits which God has given us which reflect his goodness and glory. This includes the ability to love and relate, to think and speak, to create, to order and to govern. Humans were made to reflect God’s glory, to worship him and to look after his creation for Him. Humans were made to enjoy God’s creation. In Genesis 2, the first human couple, Adam and Eve are placed into a beautiful paradise garden to care for it and enjoy it. They are given delicious, nutritious fruit to eat. This provision and permission comes with boundaries though. God identifies one tree and says “Don’t eat from it because when you do, you will die.”
This has caused lots of confusion and dare I say, a lot of nonsense has been talked about the tree. Some people have decided that the tree is all about sex and represents a puritanical approach to sensuality. However, Adam and Eve are clearly told to multiply, sex is a gift from God to be treasured and enjoyed. Alternatively and perhaps most commonly, the fruit is seen as operating in some kind of magical way. Indeed, it may well be that this is what Adam and Eve suspected. Linked to that, some have suggested that the fruit operated like some kind of hallucinogenic drug.
I think there is a more straight forward explanation for this. Often, we use outward actions to symbolically represent emotions, intentions and priorities. We sing songs and put up flags to reflect cultural and ethnic loyalties, we shake hands or hug to show friendship, in days gone by,we would have bowed to our superiors to demonstrate loyalty, respect and obedience. Christians symbolically eat bread and drink wine together (Holy Communion) to demonstrate both their unity together and their trust in Christ. Eating the fruit operated in the same way. Adam and Eve were acting out their decision to not trust God. The provision of all the fruit trees demonstrated God’s love and care for them. Adam and Eve were saying that they doubted God’s love and care. They were choosing to believe that God had given them rules for selfish reasons. They believed the lie that God is not love. Adam and Eve were saying that they wanted to make their own roles, to be in charge. They believed the lie that God is not in control.
In our other reading from Romans, Paul, one of the early church leaders says that Adam’s sin brought sin and death into the whole world. This happens in two ways. First of all, there is a sense in which Adam was making a choice on behalf of the whole human race as our representative. Adam acted like a king or president choosing for his nation or a parent choosing for the family. It might then seem a bit unfair at first to think that we are somehow implicated in this. Yet when we look at reality, we see that we also choose to confirm our support for Adam’s decision. We follow his example.
God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed, then the penalty would be death. Paul says that because of Adam’s Sin, death came into the World. There are three ways that death comes. First of all, there was physical death. Humans were meant to live for ever. However, we know that we age get sick and die. We are mortal. Secondly, humans were made with a purpose, to love God and enjoy a close relationship with him. In Genesis 3, God is pictured as walking and talking with Adam and Eve. This relationship was now broken. The purpose for which they were made was lost. We call this “spiritual death.” Thirdly, the Bible warns that one day, God will judge every human who has lived and died. We will be raised to face that judgement. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God. The Bible talks about Hell as eternal, conscious punishment as we face for ever, separated from God’s loving presence.
This is the bad news but there is good news to come. At the end of Romans 5, Adam’s rebellion is contrasted with Christ’s obedience. Adam sinned and this brought death. Jesus lived a perfect, obedient life. The Bible says that obeying God really is about loving him with our whole being and loving our neighbours too. Jesus, the obedient Son loved his father and obeyed him in everything. Jesus loved his neighbours, not just his friends but even his enemies showing compassion and care to all.
In the same way that Adam acted on behalf of us when he sinned, so too, Jesus acted on behalf of us when he died. We deserved the penalty of death. Jesus received that penalty on our behalf. Jesus died so we can live. This means that we live with meaning and purpose now. Our relationship with God is put right, we can know him love him and serve him. It means that although we will still die, physically, there is the promise that after death we will be raised to eternal life with God (see part 4 for more on this).
This is sometimes called “Justification.” Justification is a legal term which means that a person is vindicated in court, they are seen to have done the right thing. Although we have sinned, if we put our trust in Jesus, then God treats us as having done right. It is just as if we have never sinned. It is just as if we have always kept God’s law, perfectly.
A look at ourselves
Some of us end up believing the lie that we are unloved and have no value. We hate ourselves, for some this may even lead to destructive behaviour patterns such as self harm. For others, the lie that we are just here by chance, just animals, robs life of any sense of purpose, beauty and joy . Life becomes a cyclical routine, sleep, wake, eat sleep, wake etc. until we die. If we are made in God image, then this means that each of us has value. Human life is to be treated as precious. The truth is that you are made in God’s image, you are precious, you are special.
However, we can also end up believing another lie. We can deny the reality of sin. We can act as though we humans are basically okay on our own. All we need to do is have confidence in our own abilities. We just need to fulfil our potential. But the reality is that although we were made in God image, sin means that we are spiritually dead. Sin has a grip and hold over the whole of our lives. Sin means that we are helpless. We cannot sort our own mess out. We need a saviour. We need God to step in and rescue us.
Go back to your answers at the start. Look at those things which you like and dislike about yourself. Have you been truthful about yourself?
- Where have you told lies about yourself by failing to recognise that you are made in God’s image? Have you learnt to believe lies about yourself and your identity that others have told (e.g. that you are ugly, dumb, don’t fit in, etc)
- Where have you told lies about yourself by failing to acknowledge that you are a sinner? (We do this when we minimise or trivialise sin. We make excuses for our behaviour. We blame others)