With family, friends, and neighbors it doesn’t take long for our failings and fantasies to show up. We’re regularly exposed despite our efforts to inflate strengths and hide weaknesses. And as constant performers who stumble on steps, miss lines, or say things out of order, others notice. So we cover with a quip, “Just being human!” To be human is to make mistakes.
Or is it?
What if a person always has the right things to say at just the right times? Who regularly expresses sound words and displays values that encourage, cultivate, and sometimes confront others? Who has the wisdom to dismiss nonsense while never degrading the one who spoke that nonsense? A person whose priorities are so wise and compelling that others change course to adopt his ways as their own?
In the Bible we don’t ever find him “just being human.” He’s portrayed as a compelling and complete figure who never flinched in the face of antagonism and never missed a moment that called for compassion. His constant companions—the disciples—were, with one exception, fully devoted to him. They trusted him to the point of death. And he was never charged with sin or fault by any who knew him well. Instead they worshiped him.
And that raises the question of his humanity. How human was Jesus? Did his biblically proclaimed status as the Son of God—alongside his being a man—protect him from making missteps? Did he have an unfair advantage over the rest of us “normal” humans?
Yes and no. The Bible writers recognized both his moral reliability and his human vulnerabilities. He always obeyed his “Father in heaven” while he also felt hunger and pain. He wept, slept, ate, drank, and at the end of his life he cried out in despair on the cross. Yet, as Paul summarized his life in Romans chapter five, he was somehow different to Adam. Adam, the first man, was the forbearer of death. Jesus, on the other hand, brought grace that “abounded for many.”
Jesus, in other words, didn’t share in Adam’s sinful ways. So that from Jesus onward there are two human starting points. The Son, working with the Spirit, created Adam from the earth—as affirmed in John 1, Colossians 1, and elsewhere. And in the course of history the Spirit birthed Jesus from the human material of Mary’s womb. So that both the physical lives of Adam and Jesus were birthed by the Spirit’s immediate creative involvement. But Adam’s heritage was spoiled by sin—when he opened his life to the unholy spirit—and the other, despite facing the same tempter who captured Adam, never embraced sin. Or, to be clear, Jesus never sinned apart from his becoming sin for us in his spiritual union with sinners.
So let’s come back to the question, does “just being human” demand our personal failures, sin, and shame? The answer, once again, is yes and no. “Yes” in the measure that our humanity is still dependent on Adam’s spiritual DNA. And “no” if we grow in Christ’s humanity by the Spirit he gives us. The difference is in the Spirit. Jesus began his ministry when the divine Spirit came upon him. And, as affirmed by what’s called Spirit-Christicism, he relied on the Spirit for all he did in life and ministry. This is the same Spirit he gives to all believers, first on the Day of Pentecost, and now through personal regeneration in all who repent and believe.
All Christians, then, are newly human with Christ’s flawless model of humanity present in their “inner being.” Yet the ugly remains of Adam’s broken humanity—shaped by an unholy spirit, as Paul taught in Ephesians 2:1-3—is still present in us. It’s a nasty hangover that won’t be resolved until a day still ahead: “we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” [Romans 8:23].
The point in all this? It’s that Jesus is the ultimate human. And that Christian faith is our process of making a transition from “just being human” in Adam’s sin to “just being a Christ-like human” in the Son’s image. That’s what real humanity is meant to be!
Let’s finish and anchor the point with the invitation of Hebrews 12:1-2—“let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”