What does it mean to be Human?
This is a question that haunts so many other questions.
It is a question that the story of the Bible gives us answers to, and an invitation.
What it might mean to be human is a thread that runs through the grand tapestry of the Bible.
What it might meant to be human is something I’ve spent the last six years pondering.
What it might mean to be human is something, ultimately, that Jesus knows.
What it might mean to be human is something beautiful, and broken.
What it means to be human is to be made in God’s image.
And that is something we need to consider.
Over at the Bible Project, a website packed with videos and other media that help interested people to explore the Bible, they shared the above video. Tracking the theme of the Image of God – the vital part of what it means to be human – through the Biblical narrative, as a theme that changes the way we read the Bible.
The image above, of someone being either covered in dust, or reduced to it, depending on how you see it (Because, ultimately, all images only make any sense – even not the intended sense – in the eye of a beholder) gives us a sense of what it means to be human.
Genesis 1:26-7 reminds us that to be human is to be made in the Image of God.
We read in Chapter 2, however, an expansion of this:
“the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”
And the story goes on.
This man, created in God’s image, from dust, is alone.
And this, alone amongst the created things, is not good.
And here the creation account, split between Genesis 1 and 2 but offering us a beautiful whole, inserts it’s first tangent:
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she hall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame”
What it means to be human is to be loved. That is why God is so intimately concerned with the people he loves.
What it means to be human is to not be alone – before Adam was given his wife (and the gendered aspect of being made in the Image of God is deeply, beautifully important) he was alone, but not totally alone. God was with Adam. Walking in the cool of the garden. Commanding him. Placing him. Giving him a beautiful place to live. What it means to be human is to not be alone – because God has a deep concern and love for humanity.
What it means to be human is to image God. And the God that Christians believe in is Jesus, God the Son, first born son of creation, conceived and sent by the Holy Spirit to show that mankind is not alone, not forgotten, but loved.
And it is in this insight that the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4 make sense:
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”
To be human is to not be alone. To be human is to be embodied – as Jesus, Son of God, the Christ, took on flesh. To be human is to be in relationship – with God, and with each other. Every aspect of the Image of God is brought into more light, in the light of relationship, in light of the illuminating presence of God. To be human is to image God, not alone, not un-loved, but infinitely more.
The tangent of Genesis 2:18-25 is not an accident.
And neither is your life.
To be human is to not be alone. It is to be, beautifully, dust and more than dust. And to realise our true humanity, our full potential, we are invited to gaze upon Jesus, to behold the Son.