For the past seven years, my favorite go-to t-shirt has been a maroon one that simply reads “becoming fully human.” Never mind that I didn’t have a clue what the phrase meant. The shirt was soft with a lived-in feeling and I liked the abstract design on the front.
It also was a great conversation starter. The inked cashier at Whole Foods told me that he loved “that band” and someone else commented “surely there is alien life somewhere out there.” Hmm… somehow I don’t think that is what Oklahoma Baptist University had in mind when they chose “becoming fully human” as the theme of “Welcome Week,” the orientation week for incoming freshman students. And so despite the fact that I oriented a group of freshman students that summer, and have studied the Bible on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I have never understood the message that I so proudly sport—until now.
Lately I’ve been studying the book of Ephesians. A relatively short book with only six chapters, Ephesians is considered by many to be a “guide to the Christian life” or the Bible’s “spiritual warfare manual.” Ephesians is all of those things, but the profound takeaway for me is that I now better understand my God-given identity and purpose in life.
And since you’re going to skim this blog post for the punch line, let me go ahead and give it to you: You and I were created to know God intimately. To show the world who God is by living lives that point to God and bring him glory. To be God’s image-bearers. In other words, the Christian life is the process of becoming who we were created to be—“fully human.”
In Genesis 1:27 we are told, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Later, surveying everything that he had made, God declared that “it was very good (Gen 1:31).” Adam and Eve physically walked in intimacy with God and enjoyed the beauty of unbroken relationship with each other and with God. It was good to be human.
But when our forbearers chose to sin, God’s image-bearers, you and I, become less “God-like.” Originally intended to image the good and loving God to the world, humanity was now marred with sin. And as a result, our ability to image God was also greatly diminished.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there! In Ephesians 2:10, Paul explicitly reminds us who we are—God’s “workmanship”—and what we were created to do—“good works.” In Greek, “works” means “poem, artwork, masterpiece.” Think about that. Even though we are broken people living in a sin-filled world, we still get to engage in the beautiful acts of cultivation and creation. And by cultivating and creating—by working—you and I are imaging God.
Paul also reveals to us the Father’s overarching plan for “the fullness of time:” “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1:10).” It is in this unity with Christ and the resulting transformation process that God restores us to who we were meant to be—“fully human.” Therefore in Christ we not only have identity, but also a purpose for living.
St. Irenaeus, an ancient church father, is well-known for saying, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” The book of Ephesians confirms the truth of the statement. God is glorified when his image-bearers are imitating him (Eph 5:1). When they are walking in love (Eph 5:2). When they are growing into who they were created to be (Eph 4:15).
I’ve been advertising since 2006 that I’m in the processing of becoming fully human. So go ahead. Next time you see me in my well-worn maroon shirt feel free to ask me what “becoming fully human” means. Now I have an answer for you.