I want to ask you a question. Take two minutes and think about it before reading on.
What does it mean to be human?
I’ve answered that question differently over the years. Earlier in life I would have said that to be human means to be at our core – broken, or sinful. It was imprinted on me from an early age through sermons, altar calls and even manipulative dramas! You remember those, right? Two kids get in a car accident and die. The girl who had said a prayer of salvation gets to heaven and the guy who didn’t goes to, well, the other place. It was supported by a theology that saw humans as wretched and as sinners in the hands of a very angry God. There was nothing innately good about humans. But eventually I realized that this couldn’t be Gospel because well it’s neither good nor news. It is harmful theology.
There’s too much good in the world, too much beauty and art, too much love and sacrifice – from both Christians and non-Christians for us to be totally depraved. I also can’t subscribe to it because I don’t think that is the best reading of our sacred text. Right from the get go Genesis 1:27 says,
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Then, in verse 31 God goes on to say that it was very good! Before anything else, before any wrong we’ve done (and yes we’ve done wrong!), we were created good and in God’s image.
Why do we forget that? Why don’t we shout that from our church rooftops to the world? Remember, you were created good! You are created in God’s own image! Come back to your original goodness!
One of my new favorite writers is J. Phillip Newell – an expert in Celtic Christianity. He puts being in God’s image this way:
“It is to say the passion of God for what is just and right is deep within, deeper than any apathy or participation in wrong that has crippled us. To be made in the image of God is to say that creativity is at the core of our being, deeper than any barrenness that has dominated our lives and our relationships. And above all else, it is to say that love and the desire to give ourselves away to one another in love is at the heart of who we are, deeper than any fear or hatred that holds us hostage.”
So what does it mean to be human in the days of Covid-19? Look around and you might just find some examples of it. From grocery clerks coming to work so folks can have food, to nurses and doctors loving the sick, to ladies making masks, to whole communities rallying for the common good. THIS is what it means to be human. Christ came, and comes, to reawaken and return us to our true nature. Grace reconnects us to our truest identity. An identity that precedes any evil, sin, or wrong within us – a human identity you might say.
That is indeed, Good News.