What I Mean and Don’t Mean by ‘We’re All Human’

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We’re all human.  It’s a fairly common figure of speech, usually used in situations similar to the following made-up conversation between Tonto and Alfred:

Tonto: Hey Alfred, I’m sorry again about rutting up your yard with my truck the other day.  I was being negligent and totally forgot that the grass was wet.

Alfred: Hey it’s okay.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  We’re all human. We all make mistakes.

Tonto: Thanks for not hating me forever.

Alfred: It’s okay. Give me a hug.

Alfred is admitting and affirming the reality of imperfection/unrighteousness for every person, regardless of who they are (similar to “nobody’s perfect”).  This includes the capability of making mistakes, wrong judgments, like the one Tonto made.  It draws a connection between the person wronged and the wrong-doer, that “to err is human.”  “I don’t judge you; you’re a human like me.”

I’ve decided that by this I can imply one of two things.  One of these I believe accords with Scripture, and one does not.

What I don’t mean

To say “we’re all human” does not imply that our imperfection is part of the essence of what makes someone a whole, complete human being.  Certain things become such a part of our lives and our experience as people that we accept them as what’s supposed to happen.  For instance, a man meets a woman, takes interest, pursues her, then marries her if she (and her father) accepts his proposal.  Anyone objecting to his actions may get the response from him, “Why are you acting like this is a big deal? People have been getting married since the beginning of…humans!”

However, imperfection is not one of the things that makes us humans.  I have three basic arguments for this:

  1. God created people (Gen 1-2) as whole humans, and, before the Fall, they were without sin and in perfect relationship to God, each other, and their environment.  To say that sinning is essential to human composition is to say that Adam and Eve were not fully human until they sinned.  Humans are said to be made in the image of God before the Fall (Gen 1:26) as well as after the Fall (Gen 9:6).
  2. Jesus Christ was fully human, yet without sin (2 Cor 5:21).  He was not lacking anything He needed to fully share in the human experience.  This makes Him a worthy and sufficient Mediator between us and God (Heb 7:26).
  3. God guarantees the separation from sin and its consequences/effects in the new heavens and the new earth (Rom 7:24; Rev 19:8, etc.).  In the new creation, which was inaugurated at Christ’s birth and will be revealed fully at His return, a renewed, full, glorified humanity will be revealed.  Christians will receive the longing of their hearts:  To be with God and away from sin.

What it can mean

Though sin, corruption, imperfection, etc. is not part of what it means to be a human, it is everyone’s experience.  As a result of Adam’s sin, we by our nature fall far short of God’s standard.  This is such a part of our experience, it has become “normal”–we don’t know anything different.  In this way, our sin is both unnatural, in that it has distorted God’s good creation, and natural, in that we all share in it daily from birth.

Therefore, if what we mean by “we’re all human” is that we all share a nature corrupted by the Fall, then it is a worthy phrase; but if we mean “sin completes me,” then it’s not accurate at best and hopeless at the worst.  Either way, we should look beyond this mundane phrase to something more.  The good news is that Jesus took the implications of “we’re all human” upon Himself on the cross, to cleanse us from our old corruption and introduce a new creation.


Written by keywoodblog

March 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

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