Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What is Humanity Like?

1. In the creation story of Genesis 1, the Bible repeatedly says that God saw what he created and it was good (Gen. 1:31). This is an important point. Christians believe that every human being is a small reflection of God. We say that a human being is the "image" of God (Gen. 1:27). This fact means that every human being has an intrinsic worth.

Any unnecessary loss of human life should thus grieve us, because a small reflection of God has died. When a flood or a storm takes a life, a small reflection of God has died. When cancer or an accident takes a life, a tiny image of God has died.

When war takes a life on either side, we are grieved because the failures of humanity have killed a small mirror of God. War always involves a human failure at some point. We say it is a result of human "sin" at some point. Even when a violent criminal dies, even as a result of his or her own sinful actions, we mourn the loss of an image of God.

We treat others the way we would want them to treat us--we act lovingly toward others--because every human being is created in the image of God. All human beings have an intrinsic worth and dignity, because all human beings are a small mirror of God who created us.

2. The universe has an intrinsic worth because it is God's creation. God did not have to create the world. He did not have to create the stars or the galaxies. He did so because he wanted to create them. They are created for God's pleasure.

We should thus treat God's creation with respect. Genesis 1 suggests that God has appointed humanity as a steward of his creation where we live (Gen. 1:28). As his appointed caretakers, we see human pollution and the exploitation of the natural world as an insult to God. It treats as common what is his and which is thus holy. As caretakers of our world, we oppose cancer and sickness. We use the intelligence God has given us to develop science in a way that protects and restores the world.

The quest for knowledge is part of our fulfillment of God's command to "subdue the earth." Science and exploration is one way to keep this command. It is not in any way a command to abuse the earth but to steward it. Sabbath is a principle of rest that stewards our bodies and minds, allowing us to be better servants of God (Gen. 2:3).

3. "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3 is the story of every one of us. There is a power over humanity for evil. We call it the power of Sin. We look around us and often resonate with the desperate words of an early Christian named Paul when he said, "There is no one who is righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10).

Sin is the impulse to act for myself in a way that selfishly harms others. Sin is the impulse to act in a way that conflicts with my surrender to God as the most important thing. Sin is the impulse to hurt myself when I should treat myself as someone created in the image of God.

In short, sin is anything that violates the fundamental ethic set down by God in the command to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). Sin is not best thought of as a violation of rules. That is a less mature understanding of sin. Sin is an impulse to act selfishly in relation to either God, others, or even myself.

4. History is replete with the story of human sinfulness. War is the consummate example of human sinfulness, the human impulse to destroy others for the advancement or stubbornness of an individual person or a certain group. The Bible supports a time for a people to defend themselves or to protect others in war. The Bible suggests there is a time when war is necessary. But the causes of war are thoroughly sinful.

Murder is a microcosm of war. Yet human sinfulness extends to more mundane circumstances where I hurt others to get ahead or simply because I feel like it. Factionalism and the tendency to put my group above others is another manifestation of Sin. It is human nature to herd, to align righteousness with my party or my nation or my race. This aspect of human nature becomes another manifestation of human sinfulness when my group selfishly or thoughtlessly harms others.

At times the thoroughness of human sinfulness threatens to bring us to despair. But God has shown us a more excellent way.

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Yes, He has.