If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus.
This is the claim that my Fuller colleague, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, works out briefly, clearly, and beautifully in the January issue of Christianity today. [I'll post a link when it becomes available.]
Veli works out this claim in between our contemporary cultures turn to the scientist to help us answer the question of what it means to be human, on the one hand, and the creeds’ silence about Jesus’ life, on the other.
“…we know who we are becaue we have been created in his image, in the image of the one who became one of us and into whose image we out to be conformed until the day when we see him face to face.” (30)
He goes on to highlight how the New Testament speaks “in very concrete terms having to do with the actions of Christ”: we know Jesus through his enfleshed actions here on earth.
Building on the church father Irenaeus, and his idea of recapitulation, we learn what it means to be truly human by looking at Jesus: “we discern that being a real human means having a life shaped by dependence, service, and ultimate self-offering to the Father—and all this in the face of the temptations and trials of life” (30).
Taking full stock of the incarnation helps us to unravel misguided notions about “who we really are.” There is not some disembodied “soul” within us that is “us,” to the expense of our confounded bodies.
No, the Word became flesh to be human among us.
There is also no isolated “I” who is truly human.
No, the Word is second Adam and thus human as one of the member of new humanity. We are saved into “the communion of believers of all ages.”
There is one particular direction I would have liked to see Veli discuss in brief, and that is the connection between image-bearing and rule. Jesus not only proclaims, but inaugurates the Kingdom of God as its King, a role originally given to Adam that he recapitulates. And, this rule over the earth is part of the destiny awaiting those who are Christ’s: if we endure, we shall also reign with him, says 2 Timothy 2.
All Christians have a theology of Jesus. And most of us need a good infusion of understanding of the rich significance of Jesus’ humanness. He did not become flesh and blood simply so that he could die. He became a man so that he could show us what it means to be fully and truly human.