How to handle God’s audacious vision for humanity
I’ve recently been rediscovering how truly audacious the biblical vision for humanity is. According to even a cursory reading of the scriptures, humanity is made in the image of God, given charge of the entire world, and called to participate with God in his ongoing acts of creation. In the New Testament, this is amplified even further, to the point where humans are reigning with Christ, defeating death, and judging cosmic beings.
It’s hard not to be a bit shocked at how incredible these scriptural claims are. Most Christians actually feel pretty uncomfortable with them, and so tend to downplay them in some way.
But discomfort isn’t much of an answer. It’s actually more of a question—what makes us so uncomfortable about these ideas?
Doubtless, there are all kinds of reasons, some better than others. Some people are just so dead-set on feeling like a wretch and a worm, that they don’t have much room in their lives for God to be putting them in charge of the cosmos. Others are addicted to a sense of helplessness, which these audacious scriptures tend to undermine.
But for some, the concern is more practical. They’re afraid that if other people start talking about this stuff too much, they’ll become conceited, arrogant, and disruptive. They might abandon a sense of responsibility, ignore their morality, and spin off into decadence.
I’m not sure that fear is entirely without merit. But to the extent it does have merit—I think it points to an issue with people’s moral education.
After all, why would grandiose ideas suddenly cause someone to lose their sense of morality and responsibility?
There’s only one reason I can think of—if their sense of morality and responsibility was based on fear. If it was, then any kind of sense that you don’t need to be afraid would tend to disrupt your morals. And the bigger the world you’re aware of—the less you might feel the need to fear.
In this context, then, such ideas would be dangerous. But the answer is not to run from the ideas—it’s to build your morality on a stronger foundation. A foundation not made of sand.
This is why, in the scriptures, these statements of the glorification and exaltation of human beings are combined with statements about human purpose and responsibility. And when we get to the New Testament, they’re combined with statements about intense suffering.
Simple moralizing won’t cut it. Guilt is not a sufficient motivation to direct the actions of someone suddenly given vast power. Instead, you must be driven by purpose, by a responsibility that comes from within, and draws you forward.
Another name for this is love. Intense, world-embracing, self-sacrificial love.
And in the scriptures, this is precisely what unlocks all the scriptural promise of humanity. Christ is the one who embodies and becomes this love—and it is through union with him that we become capable of exercising our God-given powers without collapsing under their weight.