What does it mean to be human? It’s a simple question, just a few short words, but it unwraps the bundle of complexity, contradictions, and mystery that is a human life.
It’s a question we have been asking for thousands of years. Priests and poets, philosophers and politicians, scientists and artists have all sought to answer this ultimate puzzle, but all fell short, never able to fully capture the vastness of the human experience.
BBC created a series called Being Human … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8cTsGEKhAQ
“Being human must be truly amazing. You can see the beauty of a sunrise. You can appreciate the power of a symphony. Only you know how it feels to laugh with old friends. To be able to love, to feel intense emotion. To create life. I can do many things that humans do. But I can only dream of really being human. Actually, I can’t do that either.” Sophia the Robot
Being Human is Wonderful
Why do we behave the way we do? How do we live better? How did we get to now? What is our future?
Twelve thousand years ago, we learned how to domesticate plants and other animals for food and were able to settle in one place. We became a social animal, building complex communities that become kingdoms, learning to trade with each other using a concept called money.
By 2500 years ago, a small group of humans in Southern Europe and the Middle East started to ask big questions about who we were. What is the best way to live? What is a good life? What does it mean to be human? How we responded to these questions is how we built our civilization, art, and philosophy.
Five hundred years ago, the scientific revolution began, allowing us to harness the resources of our planet to live longer and more productive lives.
A person is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownership of property, or legal responsibility.
To be human means to learn from mistakes and grow every day. Being human is learning to make choices and prioritize tasks. Loving ourselves and self-awareness is the key attributes of human possession. Living life to the fullest without regrets.
We are Storytellers
Able to weave together common narratives about who we are and how we should live. We should celebrate Being Human – the awe of being alive and the thrill of discovering what it means to be us, the greatest wonder in the world.
It is our nature to make up stories, to interpret everything we perceive. Without awareness, we give our power to the story and the story writes itself. With awareness, we recover the control of our story. Why do humans like stories so much? It boosts our feelings of things like trust, compassion, and empathy. It motivates us to work with others and positively influences our social behavior. Because of this, stories have a unique ability to build connections.
When we tell stories about ourselves, they also serve another important (arguably higher) function: They help us to believe our lives are meaningful. “The storytelling mind”—the human mind, in other words.
All humans are made in the image of God.
That claim was–and still is–revolutionary. But what does it mean to be made “in the image of God?” What is Genesis trying to convey? Why is this such a powerful idea? In the ancient world to “be made in the image of a god” was a depiction reserved for only two things: idols and kings. When Genesis uses the phrase “image of God,” it uses the Hebrew word selem for “image.” You might be surprised to learn this, but selem is often translated as “idol” in our Bibles – “the idols of God.”
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So, God created human beings in his image. In the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26-28
Our Spiritual Component
God has made humans different from all other created beings. Humans have a physical body and a spiritual component: a soul and/or spirit. Part of this immaterial aspect is the possession of intellect, emotion, and will. Human beings are different from angels, which have no physical body.
There are various unbiblical views of what it means to be human. Classic Gnosticism, for example, takes the view that mankind is primarily a pure, spiritual entity shackled by an unwieldy, corrupt body. Other views, such as naturalism, see mankind as a wildly complex, physical machine with no spirit at all—any feelings, thoughts, or inspirations we experience are solely the byproduct of chemical reactions within our brains. Neither of these extremes has any biblical support.
To be human means to bear the image of God.
We are not divine, but we reflect divinity. God has a mind, emotions, and volition. As image-bearers, we, too, have intellect, emotions, and a will. We possess creativity, inventing, fabricating, synthesizing, making music, and creating all types of artwork. We possess the gift of language, relating thoughts from one self-aware mind to another, learning thousands of words, and coining new words when we need them.
To be human means to have a purpose.
God’s stated assignment to Adam and Eve was to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). We still fulfill this purpose when we domesticate animals, use natural resources, shape nature, and carve out an existence even in the harshest environments. But we are more than tenders of the planet. Our purpose includes knowing God and having a relationship with Him. Our highest purpose is to glorify God: “All things have been created through [the Son] and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
To be human is to have needs.
Only God is self-sustaining and self-sufficient. We have needs of body, soul, and spirit. Our bodies must receive food, drink, and rest to survive. Our souls must have fellowship with others, outlets for creativity, and times of mental, emotional, and aesthetic stimulation to maintain health.
To be human means to be morally responsible.
We can discern what is right and wrong. All humanity shares the same moral responsibility, and we are all under the same moral imperative to obey God. “The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them” (Ezekiel 18:20).
In the end, to be human is not enough.
Humanity is corrupted by sin and faces the sure judgment of God. Only the redeemed human will see God and live with Him forever. Only those in Christ will experience the removal of the corruption and the wiping away of every tear. “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).
To be human is to balance between hundreds of extremes. Sometimes we have to avoid these extremes, but at other times it seems we should pursue them, to better understand life.