Being Human Like Jesus
What exactly did Jesus come to do? This question goes to the very heart of our faith as Christians, and we could rightfully answer this in several ways. The gospel message is about God’s good news for sinners, how God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit has freed His people from the power and penalty of sin and death. The gospel shows us how sinful people can be made right with the holy God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the only Redeemer of the world. Oft-quoted Bible verses like John 3:16 and Rom. 6:23 helpfully summarize why Jesus came to this earth, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” and “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Another way we could answer this question that is just as important is that Jesus came to show us and restore to us God’s good design for our humanity. The Bible presents Jesus as the second Adam, the One who came to restore people back to God’s good design for human beings. God isn’t just interested in saving souls; He’s interested in something much deeper and wider, a total renovation project for His people, a project where we progressively over time reflect more and more the perfect image of God, Jesus Christ.
What we see Jesus do throughout the Gospels is to teach us how to be human. Sin, evil and the effects of the Fall conspire to make us into something less than human, but Jesus shows the way to be fully human in a fallen world. He is the perfect image of God who shows us broken image-bearers how to bear God’s image in a fractured world. Because of the Fall, human beings don’t know how to be human. We desperately need the second Adam to show us God’s design for our own humanity. We are lost as to who we are and who we should be apart from Jesus. But Jesus is God’s perfect mirror, the person we look to in order to know who we are and who we should be as men and women made in the image of God who have to live by faith in fallen world. And what constantly strikes me when I read the Gospel accounts of Jesus is that He is a human being who is very different from the human beings I know. He is a human who weeps from grief just moments before He raises the dead, a man who uses power and strength to serve, a human who is moved and motivated by compassion for the weak, the lost and the suffering. He is a man who “…offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” to His Father (Heb. 4:7). Jesus always tells the truth in whatever He says and in everything He does. He was and is the most authentic human being who has ever lived. And again, if He is the perfect standard for what it means to be a human being, then we must see that a lot of what we do as people is actually very un-human. We are all committed in various ways of rejecting God’s design for what it means to be human. A big part of God’s sanctification process includes seeing the ways we do this and how God is calling us to be people who increasingly reflect the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ in our imperfect world. And so, what exactly does this look like? I’ll briefly mention two significant ways we reject God’s design for our humanity and how Jesus shows us a better way to be human.
First, we easily gravitate towards self-sufficiency. We live in a culture that regularly tells us that we can’t rely on anyone other than ourselves, that we are the only ones who will determine our own fate. We hear messages, some subtle and others explicit, that it’s shameful to have to rely on others. From the image of the rugged, independent man who knows how to get things done on his own to the ideal of the tireless super-mom who can always keep it together and keep all the plates spinning, we as men and women are told in so many ways that the sin of all sins is to be dependent on someone else. For many of us, our greatest fear is that we would be perceived as needy and weak by others. And we come by this fear honest. Many of us grew up in homes where we were never encouraged to ask for help but instead told in a variety of ways to figure life out on our own. Or others of us have been in places of deep need and weakness and instead of having someone help us, we were shamed and rejected in some way. And so, the message we learn from this is that it’s just better to handle our pain, sin or problems on our own.
Many of us are taught from an early age that we are alone on the island of life, that it’s completely up to us to find what we need or to figure out a way on our own to get off the island. But it’s very clear from the beginning of the biblical story that this was never God’s design for us. God declares several things good and very good when He creates all things, including the first man, in Genesis chapter one and two. But there is only one thing that God says is definitely not good—the solitude of the first man. When God says in the beginning of the biblical story, it’s not good for man to be alone and then He creates the first woman, this is not exclusively a statement about marriage but about how all human beings were made to function. It’s a statement about how we were made to be deeply connected to others in relationships and how we are made to depend on someone other than ourselves to get what we need. Lots of scientific studies have been done that verify this truth. Multiple studies have shown that children who do not receive touch, emotional care, and support in the first few years of their lives will develop a whole host of physiological and psychological problems, such as reduced brain activity, problems with emotional regulation, depression and anxiety.
This aspect of our humanity, the need for connection and healthy dependence, is something we see Jesus Himself do during His time on earth. Jesus as God’s Son perfectly relies on His Father for all things. Have you ever wondered why in several places in the Gospels Jesus goes off by Himself to pray? Why exactly would the sinless, perfect Son of God feel the need to pray? The simplest answer is that Jesus was and is the perfect human being and that even in all His perfection, He still relied on the strength and help of His Father that He received in prayer. We must see that our commitment to self-sufficiency, often disguised in the garb of Christian “strength” or “faith”, is a commitment to rejecting God’s design for our humanity. When we live like we have no limits, like we must be able to do it all and never ask for help, we are rejecting our own humanity. And doing this is not the life of faith that we see modeled for us in Jesus’ perfect humanity. Living this way only increases our misery because it accelerates our loneliness and cuts us off from embracing God’s love and the love of people who can care for us.
Second, we often embrace various forms of stoicism. Again, if Jesus is our guide for what our humanity should look like, then we see a kind of humanity that is very different from our own. In Jesus we see a man who gets angry (while at church!), a man who cries on more than one occasion and a man who pleads with His Father to be spared the agonizing cup of suffering and death, a request that ultimately is denied. Some of us work hard to shut off our emotions because of the deep suffering that we have been exposed to. For some of us, stoicism, the commitment to not feel, was an important survival skill that we had to develop so that we could find a way to endure pain that was unbearable. But over time, this survival skill can slowly strip away the dignity of our humanity by keeping us frozen and stuck in our pain instead of helping us become wise human beings by facing our painful emotions, accepting our losses and moving forward by faith. All forms of stoicism are really a devotion to dishonesty, a way that we try to lie to ourselves and others about the pain of life. But again, in Jesus, we see that a fundamental part of our humanity that we must embrace and cultivate is the ability to tell the truth about life, especially the parts of life that hurt the most. When Jesus faced the terror and agony of His own death, He did not give us some spiritual version of a stiff-upper lip, (“I’m trusting God so everything is fine!”) but instead He cried out to His Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus gave voice to His deepest pain and feelings of abandonment and isolation and taught us that being human means a commitment to telling the truth about our pain and entrusting ourselves to the Father while we do this.
So, in the midst of our suffering and struggles we need to ask yourselves—who are we becoming? Are we shriveling up and becoming creatures who are less and less human? Have we unknowingly substituted true humanity for a different version that is opposed to what we see in Jesus? Or are we following Jesus and His lead for how to be truly human beings? Only by looking to Him will we ever fully become ourselves, men and women who reflect the glory and truth of human beings made in the image of God.
June 10-11, 2022 Common Ground Marriage Weekend Redeemer Church Pinehurst, NC https://redeemerchurchpca.org/
October 8-9, 2022 Common Ground Marriage Weekend A2 Church Birmingham, AL https://a2.church/
Our counselors are available to speak to groups in seminar or retreat settings. Additionally, we would be happy to tailor a retreat or seminar to the needs of your group.
Group Counseling In certain situations, group counseling is much more effective than individual counseling so we wanted you to be aware of some group counseling options in Birmingham.
Sexual Trauma Group
12-week therapist-led* recovery group for survivors of sexual trauma begins July 12th. Group members will be guided through a systematic recovery process; members will obtain clarity on the effects of trauma and learn strategies that will enable them to receive relief and healing. The closed**group meets in person weekly and consists of four to ten women at least 18 years of age. Registration is open until the group is full. For additional information and to reserve your place, email Jenna at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website https://viasanocounseling.com/survivors-of-sexual-trauma-group/
*Jenna Saturday, owner of ViaSano Counseling, is a clinical mental health therapist. She specializes in treating complex trauma and helping those struggling with addiction, severe depression, and disordered eating. She is trained in EMDR, has several years of experience leading groups, and her clients are primarily teens, families, and adult women. She is also an ALC, NCC, and supervised by Michelle Pruett.
**Closed groups: The group is not open to accepting new members once it has begun.
Insights Counseling here in Birmingham provides groups for those who are sexually addicted and for partners of sex addicts. To learn more, go to https://insightscc.com.