What Is a Human?
What does it mean to be human? What is the essence of humanity? Humans
have been reflecting on that question in various ways for several
millennia. How one answers that question has huge implications for a
better self-understanding and especially how we are to relate to the
world, God, and one-another. If man is the result of random processes in
the universe with no intentional design or purpose from a higher being,
then man is nothing more than a talking ape. Man is on the same level as
any other animal. Is it any wonder that people who are taught they are
animals tend to start acting like animals? Is it any wonder that a society
brought up with this belief winds up living by the law of the jungle?
Fortunately, the truth is that man is not just an animal. According to
Genesis, the one and only living God created all of life. God's assessment
is that it was all good. When God created humans, they were inherently
different. Unlike the animals, humans were created in the image of God
(Gen 1:27). Humans bore the likeness of God in several ways. Like God,
humans were creative. They could appreciate, create, design, and build
works of art, beauty, and stability. Humans had a sense of justice. They
were able to explore, study, and harness the forces and resources of
nature for good. They were capable of creating culture and society. Humans
were not ruled by instinct but could think, reason, and choose. Humans had
the God-given capacity to rise above the law of the jungle and exercise
dominion that was good, beneficial, and just in service to their creator.
However, man became twisted by sin. Rather than honoring the God who
created them, they created their own gods and even became their own gods.
According to Romans 1, they became fools when they turned their back on
the designer and creator of all life. When sin came into the world and
disconnected men from God, they often became like unreasoning animals
Fortunately, God did not leave man there. He provided a way of redemption
and restoration through the sacrifice of Jesus, his resurrection, and the
promise of the Spirit. God works to transform us to the glory of the Lord
(2 Cor 3:15-18). This means that part of God's people exercising dominion
today involves the ministry of reconciliation. We have a part in
redemption and restoration through the sharing of the Gospel. As people
are formed, reformed, and transformed into the image and glory of God, the
world is slowly transformed as well. But it will not be completely
transformed until the last trumpet sounds and Jesus returns and all rule,
power, and authority is abolished (1 Cor 15:24). The kingdom of this world
will become the kingdom of God and of his Christ and he shall reign for
ever and ever (Rev 11:15), and we shall reign with him, exercising
dominion without reference to sin (Rev 22:5).
In considering the majesty and glory of God, the Psalmist exclaims, "What
is man that you take thought of him?" (Ps 8:4). What is man? The answer is
that you are made in the image of God, and that even though you were
twisted by sin, in Christ are being reformed, or transformed into his
glory to carry out his purposes here and in eternity.