Good News: We Are More Broken Than We Think

In my most recent blog, I suggested that a good way to summarize what the New Testament writers see as “Good News” is:

God loves us so much that God wants us to know –

  • We are more valuable than we think
  • We are more broken and bent than we think
  • We are more salvageable than we think

The Biblical writers had such a high view of humanity that they often state God’s purpose in creating humans was so God could “glorify” us. Other ways to say that include “make us into the image of God,” make us “Christ-like,” and make us “fully human.” That’s the first point: We are more valuable than we think we are.

However, the Biblical writers are not romantics, but rather realists. Once we understand that we are more valuable than we think we are, they also want us to understand that we are more bent and broken than we think we are. In fact, they believed that no human capacity and potential was exempt from being a gift gone awry. There is no safe place within us, individually nor corporately. We are beings meant to grow into the character of God, but instead we live much of our lives with ourselves at the center; thus, all of God’s gifts bend back upon themselves in a very frustrating way.

How can this be “Good News?”  Well, for one thing, it explains the tension we all live in—better than any other philosophy, religion, or way of life. It realistically takes into account two realities that should, and often do, leave us living in a powerful tension. One reality is that as cultures, churches, workplaces, scientific discoverers, families, helping organizations, and individuals we can see that we have amazing capacities and potentials for good, creativity, wonder, beauty, mutual support, growth, etc. AND, in every one of these areas, we can easily see that we not only fall short of our obvious potential, but we often even turn these capacities into destruction, abuse, coercion, and degradation.

This is Paul’s argument in Romans.  The early part of the argument can be summarized like this:

1:18-32 – We humans tend to suppress the truth both of God’s wondrous creation & of our sinfulness & of our need to be thankful toward God and one another.  We often degrade God, others, and ourselves in the ways we think, live, and act.  This is sometimes easiest to see in “pagan” cultural values.  (“Secular” today?)

2:1-2:29 –But one of our worst sins as humans is actually most often seen in our religious cultures.   One of our worst sins as humans is to think that our blessings from God give us the right to judge others as outside of God’s grace and care.  This is tragic for many reasons including the fact that it ignores that God is the God of all humans and wants to be gracious to all.  This exclusvistic judgmentalism is one of the major sins of human beings and is especially prevelant among those of us who think our religion makes us better than others who may not have as much knowledge of God and of what God has done as we do.

3:1-20 – Sadly, the fact is that those of us who know more about what God has done and who God is are often the worst in arrogantly devaluing others in order to make ourselves feel better as the “in crowd.”  The truth is this “devaluing” is one of humans’ worst sins.

It is in this context that Paul next states the center of his “Good News” in Romans 3:21-25:

21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,  22this righteousness from God comes through the faithfulness (trust) of Jesus the Messiah to all who are trusting.  There is no difference, {23} for all have sinned (missed the target) and are falling short of the glory of God,  {24} and are given a right relationship (justified) freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came through Jesus the Messiah.”

So, is this claim that we are all sinful a degrading claim or a “Well, duh” claim?  That depends upon whether we use the stereotyped definition of “sin” and “sinner” as “one of little to no value,” or whether we use Paul’s definition which is that we were created as humans to grow into the very character of God.

If being like God in character is God’s target for each of our daily lives, I would say there should be little debate about whether or not we all have, and continue to, fall short of this glorious goal. Do I daily love like a human should?  Do I daily use my time to full potential for God, others, and self?  Do live I live daily with gratitude and thanksgiving for all these gifts God has given us as individuals, as the human race, and in the creation?  Do I live daily in gratitude for all of the gifts other humans have given me? Do I ever even come close for one 24 hour period to living fully in the character (image) of God? Do you? Does anyone you know?

But the claim of those who knew him say that Jesus did live in exactly that faithful way though many did not see it that way. The God of the universe and of human history did, though! And, God vindicated Jesus living faithfully at all costs by raising him from death into continuing life “in the image/character of God.” In doing this, God has made Jesus both God’s means and God’s model for moving humanity further in that direction! And, in that reality, God has presented us with another gift opportunity—a person through whom we can again have “a right relationship” with God.

There is so much more to ponder and to say about these and the following few statements in Romans, but I want to stop here with this claim. It is very freeing to face reality and the incredible tension that it puts us under: We are right—we have more potential as individuals, nations, churches, workplaces, families, and helping organizations than we can even imagine. AND, in each of these arenas we do more harm and hurt than we ever like to face up to, even though it often is staring us in the face and blasting us in the accusations of others.

It is actually Good News to know that we do not need to deny either part of reality. And, it is Good News to hear that God is out ahead of us in dealing with this incredible tension that haunts us humans every day in many ways.

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