The starting point for humanity is in the embrace of God. According to the Bible, at least. I’m not too concerned to prove the truthfulness of the Bible, as I know there are many others who are far smarter than I and have written books on the matter. So, lest I be dragged kicking and screaming into the miry clay of philosophy and truth-claims and thought, I shall simply state that what is written here are my engagements with the message of the Scriptures. The God it declares, the truth about humanity it presents and the salvation it extends.
As I was saying: The starting point for humanity is in the embrace of God, so the story goes.
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:5-7)
God made humans with his own hands – forming each limb; sculpting each curve and fold; taking time over this creation. Interesting to note how this text differs from the other creation account in Genesis 1, where each thing was made with a single command from the mouth of God. This account is far more intimate. Yes, there is something unique about humanity here, where the Maker forms these bipedal shapes of dirt when there is so much more to do.
He breathes his Spirit into this dirt-clod. Like in Genesis 1, God makes nothing into something with his own being. This time, though, it is a breath. No command, a breath.
This essence of God transforms dirt into life. This miracle of existence is the very life of God granted to a pile of earth. The dirt walks, and has it’s being. Borrowed existence from the most generous lender. And God did yet more for the upright-earth.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15)
So the man has a task. His role in the creation is to care for and cultivate it. But God wasn’t done yet!
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
Was God not enough for him? Was the man disappointed with his Creator? The man’s reaction to the woman is interesting:
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
How did he know what he was missing? He had no experience of other people. It had just been him and the Maker. So was it something breathed into the man with the Spirit? A part of his existence – the need for community?
What we see a tiny glimpse of in Genesis 2 is the unfolding of humanity as God intended. Indeed, since it is what God intended, nothing short of that could be called humanity. From dirt to existence.
From the earth yet with the breath of the Divine in his lungs, walking around with the other dirt-clods who borrowed their every breath from the lips of God.
This glimpse is so brief you might miss it. It’s soon over. The humans eat the forbidden fruit, rejecting God and destroying their relationships with each other. God takes his Spirit from them. Humanity is lost. The Bible calls this sin. In Church we confuse sin for ‘doing bad things’ and in part that is true. The notion of sin seems larger than this, to me. It seems more like sin is ‘not being human’.
The Bible is the record of the great depths of un-humanity and the greater power of God to restore that which was lost. Indeed, the whole history of the Bible can be summarised as the quest for the restoration of all things. That which was lost being rediscovered. We get hints in the legal code of the People of God, who were commanded to:
love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
Yet without the Spirit in them, the dirt-clods living on borrowed time could not be the true human beings God intended. It’s the missing piece. Like the key-stone of a bridge. The part which simply must be there. In Scripture we see that humanity is not rediscovered through mere activity, but through God once again breathing his Spirit onto the lumps of walking earth, that they would once again be the creatures intended.
For me, at least, I have discovered this to be true. When the God/Man Jesus was with his followers, he breathed on them and said “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). In my life with Jesus I have begun to learn what God intended for me, as a human being. A lump of dirt which is miraculously alive, sharing life with God.
The intimacy with God and the loving community which was lost is reclaimed through the Church by Jesus and, indeed, we are even given a vocation like the first man – to make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19-22).
It is wonderful to find yourself alive and in the arms of God.
I’m back to where we begun. A lump of dirt with the Spirit of God in me, in a community of people who love me and with a task to do, given by God. According to the Bible, this is where humanity begins. I’m on a lifelong adventure to discover just what that means now.
I am finally human.
How about you?