Before Being a Christian, I Am a Human!

January 20, 2014

 

Once I asked a group of believers, “Who are you?” The majority replied, “We are Christians.” Some responded that they were “children of God,” and others mentioned “Pentecostals.” Their replies made me think how far we have become removed from humanity! No one replied that he/she was a human being.  Maybe you think it is quite odd for someone to state this, but it is natural that we are human beings.

In the Hebrew language the word “Adam” means man or human. In the Middle East, we refer to all human beings as Adam. These days I am beginning to grasp a very important reality: that before being a Christian, I am a human! I am a human being! After more than 15 years in the ministry, I am now beginning to realize this simple, yet powerful truth. This may surprise you, or this may encourage you, and I am sure some of you will judge me or accuse me of entering into humanism and related areas. Please allow me to elaborate in this article.

Reading the first chapters of Genesis reminds us that God created Adam and Eve, and that He made man in His own image. These are beings whom He loves and He cares for. God did not create Christians in the beginning, but He did make Adams (human beings).  To be human is the purpose for which God created mankind; we are not angels, nor are we spirits!  After the fall of man in Genesis, humanity became fragile, weak, corrupt, and sinful. However, at the same time humanity had goodness, kindness, righteousness, and love in himself, but not complete love. Jesus Christ came into this world to reconcile us to the Father and help us to restore the humanity within us; the humanity that was supposed to be ours, but lost in the Garden of Eden. However, we’re all on the way; we are all moving toward that day that we will be fully restored to that level of humanity. But as long as we are here on earth, living with almost 8 billion neighbors, we must remember the human aspects of our being. At this moment, unfortunately, some of us have created an elite group called Christians, or Born Again Christians. They assume that God only cares for them and no one else; they are Daddy’s special kids. They are even more special when they are Born Again Christians. What are the consequences of such thinking?

First of all, we become arrogant and consider others as nobodies! We treat them as gentiles or pagans. We act as if we are the only ones on the planet earth for whom God cares. This is Pharisaism! Remember the story of Nicodemus, who went to Jesus at night to become part of God’s kingdom? Jesus challenged this Pharisee to become born again through God’s spirit; then in John 3:16, Jesus immediately said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son.” In other words, Jesus urged Nicodemus to stop treating people as ungodly dogs, but to treat them as human beings because God loves the entire world and not just a particular group of religious people. When we realize that we are human beings who have a revelation of Christ, then we begin to manifest the love of God to others in a genuine and caring way.

Secondly, by thinking we are first Christians, we have the tendency to become judgmental! We point fingers at other people’s mistakes. We place people in our tagged boxes, and we easily send people to hell! Yet, we forget that we are simply saved by God’s grace and His justice, through His Son and not through works or deeds of religion. We forget that before looking at others we have to realize our own mistakes, shortcomings, and even tragedies. Yes we have them too. Did you think we did not have shortcomings and weaknesses? Yes, we have them! Why? Simply because we are human beings! This has been a problem for a long time. As Christians we judge others; we pretend that we are super humans; we are ultra spiritual beings who make no mistakes.  When our weakness is displayed on national news broadcasts due to scandals and disgrace, people  associate that to Christianity and Christians. I often hear people saying, “We thought you Christians were holy…!” I am tired of hypocrisy and fundamentalism! 

Take a look at Jesus. Before His arrest, he warned Peter that he would deny Him three times that night before the rooster cries! Why did Jesus say that? Because Jesus knew that Peter was a human, and He was weak!  Indeed, three times Peter denied Jesus! Meanwhile Jesus was arrested, tortured, beaten and mocked. He was placed in the yard, in chains, in blood, and in pain! When Peter denied Him the third time after the rooster cried, Jesus, in the middle of His agony and pain, took time to look into Peter’s eyes from a distance, showing the heart of Jesus! His love and His grace was sufficient for Peter. Yet, the same Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and became one of the greatest apostles in human history. Whenever I realize that I am a human before being a Christian, God’s grace opens to me. I realize that I too can make mistakes; I too am weak; and I too have shortcomings. Just like Peter! Does it mean I have to continue sinning? No, by all means! His spirit within me renews me, helps me, and in case I should fall down, I know I will stand up again because of His love! 

Thirdly, by focusing too much on Christianity, we become ministry oriented. Jesus said, “I no longer call you a servant, but I call you my friends!” Friendship is an ultimate form of humanity. Servant-hood belongs to organizations, but friendship belongs to humanity. When we exaggerate our Christianity we become performance oriented, title oriented, position oriented, etc. But when I realize that I am a human being in Christ Jesus, I understand that before being a pastor I am a father and a husband. My wife doesn’t need a pastor, she needs a husband. My children don’t need a reverend, they need a father. We have to realize that before being a member of a Sunday morning fellowship, I am a neighbor to someone. We have to realize that before having religiosity and good dogma, we ought to have the heart of a human. We have to live life, enjoy life. Celebrate life as human beings in Christ Jesus. 

Fourthly, overemphasis on Christianity rather than humanity causes us to wear masks, masks that portray us as “ubermensch” or “supermen” without weaknesses and frailties. This is because many Christians are suffering inside with lots of questions and temptations. They cannot talk to other fellow “Christians,” because the consequences are obvious: isolation, judgment, and gossip. Why do some leaders and clergy fall into the sin of adultery? Because they are lonely. Because they pretend to be strong men of God and ideal Christians, and no one expects them to be weak. We have issues in finances, issues in the realm of sexuality, and issues in the realm of leadership, but may not be able to speak out about these inner struggles and questions. 

Fifthly, if God chose to become human, how much more human we would have to be as well! A good friend of mine once said: “Jesus did not come as a Christian; He came as a human.” The Word became flesh! (John 1). Jesus came to restore us to Adamhood! To be a human being helps us to express the love of God and the good news of Jesus Christ much more effectively than having certain religious formula. 

Lastly, we begin to realize that the people of the world did not reject the gospel of Jesus Christ; they simply do not understand it! Why? Because they are human beings, and it is not easy to understand the gospel of Jesus. Imagine that your wife comes to you one day and says, “Honey, I am pregnant, but not by you. The Spirit of God created a child in me.” What would you think? The first thing that comes to my mind is a DNA test! This is what I am trying to say; how in the world do you expect the people to believe such a story? This is beyond human nature. How can people believe the resurrection? It is beyond the human mind! However not understanding something does not mean rejecting it. I believe that the majority of the world population did not reject the gospel, but they simply could not understand it. Why is this? There are many reasons. One reason is that the gospel is beyond human abilities and human restrictions. Others cannot understand the gospel when they see corruption in Christians. How in the world do you expect people to become Christians when in the news we hear that our leaders do not behave? How in the world do you expect people to be Christians when they see church buildings that are full of gold and silver, while people are suffering from hunger? How can people be expected to understand Christianity, while slavery was justified by Christians of that time? How can people of the world understand Christianity when super star TV preachers enrich themselves at the cost of crisis-stricken people, demanding their last coin and penny? How can the people of the world understand child molestation in the holy rooms of the cathedrals? All of these show that we are human beings, and we are no better than other people!  I really believe that there are people in the world who are in love with Jesus and His teachings, but they do not understand Christians and Christianity. One day a close family member said to me (while she was watching the shouting, screaming, TV preacher in an Armani suit demand money) “Sam, I love Jesus, but please don’t turn me into someone like that,” pointing with her hand to the TV evangelist.

When we show the world that we too are human beings; we too have emotions, feelings, mistakes, joys, happiness, sorrow, etc.; when people of the world notice our humanity and humility, it is then that the Holy Spirit will convince them of Jesus Christ! 

Let us be a friend, a neighbor, a brother, a sister, a son or a daughter. Let us be humans and manifest Jesus’ love through humanity as the Holy Spirit inspires us to do! 

I know many of you will be offended by my words, but many will be encouraged as well. Therefore I am a human before a Christian!

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© 2010-2019 by Samuel C. Lee

 

Samuel Lee (Ph.D.) is university lecturer, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - Faculty of Religion and Theology (FRT-VU), and director for Center for Theology of Migration, the educational program of Samen Kerk in Nederland at the FRT-VU. 

He is the founder of Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, offering higher education in liberal arts and humanities for migrants, refugees and persecuted minorities.

 

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