48“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I use to think that the Sermon on the Mount was easy and beautiful. I use to think, “yeah Jesus, tell ’em what they are missing.” The Sermon on the Mount was clear and way better than the law. Plain language. No questions. When I learned that Jesus was actually the fulfillment of the law, it made so much sense. The law was not just words; it was Jesus. His life is the concrete picture of what God intended. Let me get my WWJD bracelet right now.
Well, I’ve realized the Sermon on the Mount, in spite of its beauty, is no picnic. It’s not easy. In fact, Jesus is calling us to account. He’s telling us that these teachings were actually going to do something the law was incapable of doing-bringing humanity into the picture. Jesus, in the flesh, was going to humanize the law; he would put flesh on it.
When I took my ordination exams, one of the questions was about the depravity of humanity. I will admit, that is still a hard one for me. Are we depraved? Perhaps so-but the depravity isn’t humanity per se…it’s our version of humanity. We’ve got the wrong picture.
Humanity is actually beautiful when understood in the light of Jesus-God becoming flesh to show us the power of love and humility. We don’t get there by focusing on the evil of humanity, but instead by remembering, by believing and seeing, that God made us HUMAN in the IMAGE of God’s own humanness and it is Good!
With that as the backdrop, the Sermon on the Mount and all that Jesus teaches us about what it means to be human is simply this-He is calling us to our original, intended selves. He is calling us forth into abundant life found in a new way of being. Jesus is inviting those who will follow to shed those things that de-humanize us and invites us to rightly claim what is already within-put there by our Creator.
I just got of the phone with a friend of mine who is serving time-again. We’ve had many conversations about this. He is coming into his true HUMANITY-and though he has lived a lifetime, or what some might call a waste of life, I choose to believe that the image of God still resides there. Why? Because, as marred and scarred and unrecognizable that it seems at times, his humanness belongs to God and it’s there. I know it. As people who are called to proclaim the Good News in hard places, this is perhaps one of the most difficult things we must do-persist in finding the God-HUMAN ness in all.
Back to my statement of faith in my ordination exams-someone pushed me on the question of the depravity of humanity. To be totally honest, it is hard for me to put those two words together in the same sentence. Why? Because humanity belongs to God. It was God’s idea. We’d be better served to start with the assumption that humanity is good because it was created by God. As a pastor, this is my constant tension-to look for the humanity in others and begin there. First. That’s not easy.
To forgive and love your enemy is true humanity.
To give generously to others is true humanity.
To turn the other cheek when someone has wronged you is true humanity.
Depravity of humanity in this context isn’t some “evil” that is different and distant from us. Depravity of humanity is unforgiveness. It’s greed. It’s retaliation. It’s inhospitality. It’s hating your enemy. It’s “othering.” These are all motivated by fear AND by some need we have to ensure that our own humanity is protected. Depravity is all that works against our ability to see and believe and trust that God is in the other.
The call of the disciple is to the OTHER. It is to love the OTHER. It is to find peace with the other. It can’t be done without the simple truth-GOD became HUMAN and showed us how to BE truly HUMAN to one another.
May God grant all of us eyes to see his image in those where we least expect it.
Rev. Lina Thompson
Pastor, Lake Burien Presbyterian Church