Last week, we ended Part 2 with these questions:

So what happens when we refuse to live the way God created us? What happens when we forget to be human?

Adam and Eve give us a brief snapshot in Genesis 3. We often think that the story of the fall is about apple-eating. In reality, the first humans were more tempted by the promise of being “like God” than the fruit itself (Gen. 3:5). Adam and Eve wanted to be something that they weren’t created to be. They saw the opportunity to be more than human, and they took it. They immediately see the consequences of that decision. They experience shame for the first time (Gen. 3:7,11). Their relationship with God turns from one of dependence and worship to one of fear (Gen. 3:8), and the trust in their relationship with each other is lost (Gen. 3:12).  But it’s not just in Genesis that we see these consequences playing out. The evidence of our inhumanity is all around.

Let’s start with our relationship with God. When we believe ourselves to be more than human, the whole thing falls apart. Think about it…when we believe that we are more than we are, or deserve more than we should, we cannot see God the way He designed. We resist the idea that He has given us a purpose, because we want to control our own destiny. We reject the truth that we were created to worship Him, because we want to worship ourselves or our own dreams. We crush ourselves under the weight of our own expectations and needs because we refuse to trust God’s provision for us. We cannot stand the idea of accepting His grace for us since we believe we can save ourselves. If we are not content to be human…we don’t want to let God be God.

How about our relationship with other people? What happens when we start seeing ourselves as more than human in our interactions with other people? We start believing the lie that our needs are more important and we start thinking of others as “less-than.” We start to think that our needs, our welfare, or our dreams are more important than the needs, welfare, or dreams of other people. This plays out in a thousand different ways. Systemic injustice and oppression are dependent on the idea that the people who are in power are worthy of more, have greater inherent value than the people who are powerless. And what’s true on a corporate level is certainly true on an individual level. When we look closely at our own selfishness, it’s not hard to see how we have placed ourselves and our needs above others. We don’t see others as image-bearers who have God-given value and dignity. Instead, we devalue them to the point that they are just impediments to our own achievements. They are not sons and daughters, husbands and wives…they’re not humans. They’re just in our way.

And it’s not just corporate systems or individual selfishness that are impacted by our desire to be more than human. Some of the most important and divisive issues of our time are impacted as well. For example, think about how this issue impacts our relationships with people of other races. Most of us would say we are not racist. And we can back it up. We can point to friendships or interactions we have with people of another skin-color as examples. Or we can point out that we don’t use certain words that are offensive. Plus, we agree with laws that protect people from discrimination. From our point of view, there’s nothing racist about us. But what if we looked at this issue through the lens of what it means to be human?

What if we defined racism as treating someone as “less-than” human because of their skin color? Would that change our opinion of ourselves? Are there ways we dehumanize people because of race? Ask yourself this…do you ever assume someone’s background, economic status, personal preferences, intelligence, or level of education because of the color of their skin? Have you ever found yourself dismissive of someone else’s opinion on a subject because you assume “they only think that because they are (insert race here)?” How about this…do you ever become impatient or angry with someone of another race who is voicing their perspective on life, on culture, on politics, or on America because you refuse to believe their experience or opportunity has actually been significantly different from yours? Doesn’t this kind of thing reduce someone to the color of their skin or our assumptions about them instead of treating them like the divine image-bearing human beings that they really are?

Unfortunately, I’m gonna be the first one to answer “yes” to a lot of these questions. Hard as it is for me to admit, I have regularly bought into the idea that I matter more than other people. What’s worse, I’ve often been guilty of the kind of thinking, speaking, and acting that shows I believe other people matter less than me. We need to recognize this as sin. We need to repent, and we need to change. The reality is that when we make ourselves more than human and treat others as less-than, it hurts everyone. We cannot bear the weight of being superhuman any more than they should endure the suffering of being sub-human.

We’ve got to see ourselves and others as humans in the fullest biblical definition of the word. We have to learn to live as humans and interact with other people without dehumanizing them.

The funny thing is, we only learn how to be fully human by following the example of God in the flesh.

That’s where we’re headed in part 4.