What does it mean to be human

Published by Camille deVos on

Humanity. What springs to mind when you reflect on what it means to be human? What imagery do you hold as you reflect on humanity?

Often we use the expression only human to explain our weaknesses. We throw it around as an excuse for our sinful behaviours. We think of being unapologetically ourselves as owning our strengths and even more so, owning our weaknesses. As if that is who we are cannot ever change instead we have to accept that and tell others to take it, or leave it.

This is not something that we often spend too much time reflecting on. We tend to move through our days not really thinking about this or the impact our imagery has on the way we live our lives. However, with our without thought, our understanding of what it means to be human has an impact on how we live our lives before the face of God. Even the Heidelberg Catechism digs into this understand when it asks the question: Did God then create man so wicked and perverse? (Q&A 6)Did God create man with the weaknesses, sins and flaws that we tend to think are what make us human?

No. On the contrary, God created man good and in his image. That is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might rightly know God his creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify him.

Created in the image of God

When God created humanity, he created us to bear his image.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” – Genesis 1: 27

He created mankind to be his representatives on earth. To rule over creation, to have dominion over everything that is on earth.

As the catechism points out, humanity has been created to live in true righteousness and holiness. Created to be pure, wholesome and good. We have been created to live in a right relationship with God, to live in deep communion with him. As we learn from Genesis 3:8, God walked together with man in the garden. There was a deep communion as man knew his creator and lived together with his Lord. There was a deep relationship that was celebrated through the praise and glory of God. A deep relationship that grows through our worship of Him.

This is what we have been created for. To truly bear the image of God. To be God’s representative on this earth and to live in deep personal relationship with him.

Something went wrong.

We know the story of the fall into sin. We know how Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God. We know the impact of the fall, how the brokenness continues to unfold in our lives today. It is in this that our image bearing capacity was shattered.

We were created in the image of God but that has been completely broken by the presence of sin. We no longer bear God’s image. We are no longer who he has created us to be. Instead, our sin means that we are very poor representatives of God. We have become people who do not commune deeply with God. We do not live in righteousness and holiness. We do not lift the name of God in our praise and worship.

Redemption for Humanity

Christ came into this world and lived a life that was truly human. A life that was without sin. Through his life and death our Saviour has made it possible for us to be restored to true humanity. His work on the cross has made it possible for us to be reconciled with God. He modelled for us what it is like to live in deep relationship with God, what it is like to live a life of worship and service. He has made it possible for us to draw close in deep relationship with our Lord. He made it possible for us to once again bear the image of God.

We continue to be flawed. Our image bearing capacity broken and shattered. Our weaknesses and sins are not because we are human. Our weakness and sins are because we have become something less-than-human. They are because we have fallen short of bearing the image that we are created in.

We continue to come face to face with the brokenness of life but through it all we have hope. We have a security and assurance that there is something more than this. We have the comfort that we can be more than the messy, chaotic, less-than-humans that we find ourselves being.

Restoration to true Humanity

By the power of the Holy Spirit working in us we grow to become more human. We are restored so that mirrors that reflect the image of God become less and less cracked. Our God works in us so that we become truly human. He is busy working in us so that we are restored to be who we have been created to be.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we become more and more a true image bearer. He works in us so that we draw close in relationship with our God. We are restored so that more and more we worship the Lord of the Universe with our whole heart, soul and mind. So that more and more we praise and glorify him.  

Sanctification. God restoring us to who he created us to be.

Sanctification is the process of growing into the person God has created us to be. It is moving toward and growing in our image bearing capacity. Each and every one of us are created in the image of God. Each an every one of us have a unique capacity to carry the image of God, to shine that image into the lives of people around us.

Each of our individual qualities all combine together so that as the church, as the body of Christ we grow in bearing the image of God. We continue to be refined, purified and sanctified so that image is stronger and stronger. So that those around us look through us to the God of the universe.


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