Being human


What does it feel like to be less than human? I know it, if I can’t write it, and I have an answer, even if it’s not original.

I’m not sure where I want quite to go with this, but my feeling is that the last week in particular has had a rather listless, ætherial quality. What it is that makes life vibrant, and zing, and what is it saps focus and makes us sail through decisions, doing one stupid thing after another, losing the feeling of determination we have over where we’re going, and dragging us down? Sometimes, we’re just not very human. What is it that makes us do things we aren’t properly thinking about, when our minds could be full of pure thoughts of others—like boys teasing girls with the grown-up edge to their voice or jokes which are no kinder than the childish putting spiders down their backs? Or, for women, what is it that makes us buy into the way the world around us nudges us to present ourselves, prodding conversations with our own little agendas, mimicking certain styles or walks, or leaving up the mandatory flattering ball-gown profile picture? That is, when we don’t seem to make the decisions ourselves, and the outcomes are thoughtless, petty, self-promoting, narcissistic, defensive, rude, or worse, why can’t we be more human?

It’s sin. We are born sub-human, and struggle (or not) against that every day of this life. We know that, or should recognise it: that our minds don’t weigh and recognise the truth clearly; that we are full of all the above evil desires; that we hardly ever have a conversation go quite the way we wanted to, or see a friend without thinking of ourselves; our elaborate face-saving instincts on social networking sites; our conspiring glances and smiles with a closer friend, or stranger, when we see someone we can disrespect; our arrogance and self-pity when we get ahead of our abilities and try to push our own ideas forward inappropriately; our thoughtlessness in telling others how we think we’re better. I have done these all this week, and want a way out, an escape from a descending spiral of unreality, where wholesome joys and interactions are spread thinner and thinner over my mind and feelings.

Thanks be to God, who has sent his beloved son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has shown us the glorious riches of the inheritance with the saints, transferring us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of his light! Friends, don’t stop reading! This is real, not a discussion; an event, a happening, physical occurrence, not a question or debate. Jesus, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, is the image of the invisible God, the visible, examinable, representation of him, who left his mark decisively and unequivocally on this Earth. He is the firstborn from the dead, the prototype of our new life, the proof-copy of the first edition that guarantees the whole creation will be made new. He rules supremely, and will grant us our heart’s desires—our very own new desires! Fresh peace, which finds comfort in nothing invented but is grounded only in the matchless goodness of his power and lordship. Fresh eyes to see the spring after years of winter, and watch the colours of the world sing to their creator with a praise we never saw, and an anguish and brokenness that we thought was part of the spec as we wait in patience for the time for his coming to be completed.

Fresh minds and intellects to discern the truth, free from cloying and unshakable self-doubt over our perceptions, our judgements, our abilities. Think of every far-out nutter whom we despise, the mad, the crazy, the ignorant, those who simply cannot be convinced by any force of logic that they are wrong, and quake and tremble with the realisation our truth rests on the same internal conviction of our ability to think and reason, with nothing but the majority to tell us apart, each scorning the other’s error with nothing ability to communicate. That is how far we doubt we must doubt ourselves, when we see the nonsense that sometimes otherwise clever friends or distant figures hold, seemingly with no internal unease or difficulty. We, the thinkers, the right ones, the clear-seeing bunch, much despair when we see how untrustworthy our race is! Perhaps all language and meaning are games of power, or munging of symbols, empty of truth? Perhaps we are right, seeing more rightness than to reject truth, but with no clear reason why our logic is better.

Friends, our minds are to be renewed! Renewed, made fresh with exciting affections and hopes, with new truth grounded on revelation! If we are complicit in common error, the everyday self-deceptions and wrong thoughts, the unshakable untrustworthiness of our internal processes, it is Christ, the only man who has ever lived differently, who has risen from the dead, who has shown us the face of the almighty God, who brings us back to humanity from sub-humanity. Look up and see him, enthroned and high, who humbled himself and took on the likeness of a servant to make that offer of salvation. He came to make all things new, and by the renewing of our minds, our hopes and will and joys and hates, in their frivolity and grandeur, are placed on a new and certain path. Our sin which makes us despair, or worse still doubly condemns us when presume still to look back at our lives and deny our guilt, can be washed away forever on the cross. My hope is in him who died for me, and he quenches our thirst for being human again. By his sovereign power, he has brought us back into a living hope and relationship with his own self which does not disappoint, and his grace which took away our blame strengthens us to press on and take our share in the inheritance of praise we rejoice to share and offer before him. If today you harden your heart, and do not commit your life into his hands, who cares for us, when will you? And, if you then know him today, who can fail to offer praise in the evening, worship in the morning, and yearn for rich, pure, inward devotion all day long? He demands it of us, offers it to us, and loves us every day.