Summary: This is a follow up to the message about being created in God's image and looks at the question: What does it mean to be human?
If you were to visit the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. you could visit an exhibit called The Hall of Human Origins, and you could spend the better part of a day visiting the various displays that make up the exhibit.
Now if DC isn’t on your vacation list for this year, you could simply go to the Smithsonian’s human origins website.
As part of the project, they have been asking visitors since 2018 the question, ‘What does it mean to be human?’
Here are some of the answers:
David, Spain “It means having the power of reason, the freedom of choice, and the pursuit to understand and study the world”
- Jon, VA “To me being human means that you have hobbies or participate in your own culture that you can share with other people.”
- Stephen, California, writes, “Being human is having language, being able to communicate, having culture, intelligence, self-awareness, and empathy. Also, bipedalism is pretty cool!”
- Anna, Greenville, South Carolina said, “A being created by God and in His image, with the ability to think and act, while having a conscience.”
- Emily from South Carolina wrote, “Humanness is being made in God's image; having emotion, intent, intelligence, feelings, spirit, and soul. Being human means to have eternality and be born sinful, but have an opportunity for redemption. It also means having discernment and choice.”
And I loved the response of Jovany, who attends Roosevelt High School in Portland Oregon. Jovany wrote, “Being a human might sound easy but with being a human come a lot of responsibilities.”
The documentary channel BBC Earth asked a similar rhetorical question and answered it this way, “It’s a simple question, just a few short words, but it unwraps the bundle of complexity, contradictions, and mystery that is a human life.”
It is a question that humanity has been asking about itself for thousands of years. And through those years we have sought answers from a variety of sources.
And the answers have varied depending on whom you asked. Was it a priest or a politician? An artist or a scientist? A philosopher or a poet? But any and all of those answers fall short of truly explaining what it means to be human.
Going back to the BBC we read, “In fact, to date, no one has come close to describing the sheer magnificent wonder of being alive. The electric surge we feel when we kiss a lover, the deep stirring of the soul when we listen to Mozart’s Requiem, and the full flowing joy of laughing uncontrollably with our closest friends as we share a joke.”
This spring we are looking at the question “Who am I?” and how the answer to that question defines our image. That is, whom we perceive ourselves to be.
Last week I looked at the creation account, in particular Genesis 1:26–27 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
And if that sounds familiar it’s because that’s the scripture that was read this morning as well.
Last week, I spoke about what it means to be created in the image of God, and how that image became distorted through humanity's choice to disobey God.
It was while I was preparing that message that I read Brian Rosner’s book, Known by God, a Biblical Theology of Personal Identity. And it was here that, Rosner suggests five characteristics from the creation account that make us human.
Let’s begin with Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
So, the first thing we need to realize is that Human Beings are Special
If we read through the creation account, we discover there are similarities in each element of creation. God speaks the various elements into being. The earth, the seas, the plants the animals. And in each case, we are told that God saw that it was good.
This changes on the fifth day when all the living animals were created and at that point something was added.
Let’s pick up the story in Genesis 1:21–22 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”