The Gospel in 5D: Humanization
Jesus came into the world preaching the good news of the gospel. The gospel is God’s loving victory over Sin through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the launch of his Kingdom. But in what way is this good news and what does it mean for us today?
A couple provisors before I launch into my thoughts on that question.
First, American Christianity has used a strategy of "narrowing" across the board for achieving doctrinal correctness. Scared of being too Liberal and caught up in the Modern idea that reality is definable, we have sought to capture Truth in bullet points. But Truth is a man named Jesus who lived a very complex story long ago in a land far away, and who is still living and active today. This kind of thing just doesn't fit well into bullet points. So know that as I write my thoughts I am far from convinced of their perfection and certain that they are not exhaustive.
Second, good news is different for different people. A Western cultured person who struggles with guilt will hear one message as "gospel" which another person from an Eastern culture struggling with shame will not relate to. Those who are hungry yearn for something the well fed rarely consider. Instead of narrowing, the bible portrays a God big enough to meet every need.
That said, in the previous post, I laid out five dimensions of the gospel. For the next couple weeks, I'm going to give a brief explanation of each, but I will return to these ideas again and again. Today, let's start with...
Dimension 1: The Gospel as Humanization
The enslaving power of Sin and in particular the oppression it produces for the marginalized is grossly dehumanizing. People are robbed of their joy, their true identity and the experience of life as God designed it to be. Designed to be relational beings, we are instead alienated from God, self, others and creation. Accepting the gracious gift of Jesus’ salvific work on the cross launches a process of rehumanization within a person’s being.
Jesus said, “I have told you this so that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). He came so that we might have “life and life more abundantly” (John 10:10). Paul declares the new identity we have seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” As a new creation, our ability to reflect the imago Dei is restored and we are able to be effective “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). This is what Dr. Mark Baker refers to as “naming.” The unique identity each person carries is obscured by Sin, but revealed, identified and expressed through the power of the gospel (Rev 2:17).
Note that I am definitely not saying those who have not received the gospel are not humans. Rather, I mean that our ability to express the image of God located in all people and the creational intent Jesus revealed is in bondage to sin (Rom 6:20). The atoning work of Jesus has freed us to be that which we always were.
This theme of what it means to be human is something I will return to later.
I came into the idea that Jesus' saving work has restored our humanity while studying domestic violence. Wrestling with the portraits of abuse my class exposed me to, I wrote the following:
"Bernhard Ott demonstrated that the two great points of human accountability are found in God’s two seminal questions to the first family: “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) and “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:21) (23). As we stand in servant hearted, loving relationship towards God and towards others we are manifesting humanness as it was created to be. Sin, on the other hand, corrodes our humanity because it is a violation of loving relationship with both God and others. However, it does not only distort our own humanity, it also robs authentic human identity and experience from our victim. Oppressive abuse towards another person--because it is a flagrant disregard for their image of God, treating them as an object for use instead of a “brother” to lovingly serve--accelerates this process of dehumanization for both the oppressed and the oppressor."
The intensity of family abuse reveals something that is fundamentally true of any sin--it destroys all parties. Those on the receiving end are robbed of dignity, respect, love, and at times even the basics of life or life itself. Those committing the act fail to express the Image of God, losing the beauty that God meant humans to radiate.
Through the gospel, Jesus overcomes these distortions. Dignity is restored, love is pured out, relationships are reconnected, forgiveness is acquired, joy bubbles forth, and the image of God shines anew.