I’m Only Human

by Mike McKinniss

People say, often in some of their worst moments, that they’re “only human.”  It’s meant to be an excuse of sorts.  Perhaps I’ve completely forgotten to do something that someone desperately needed me to do.  I, of course, was too busy thinking of myself and completely dropped the ball.  “I’m sorry,” I say without a hint of remorse.  “I’m only human.”

It’s time, however, that we upgrade our expectations of what humans were meant to be.

In Scripture, one may legitimately read Jesus as the quintessential human.  He was what people were always meant to be.  As Scottish scholar and missionary Bishop Stephen Neill put it,

When Jesus died, something happened that had never happened before in the whole history of the world.  A man had lived the whole of his life in perfect and complete obedience to God. … The universe had never seen, and so it had lived on through all the centuries in frustration.  Now we know what the machine was made for.  At last we have seen a man. [1] (37)

In other words, in explanation for any one of his wondrous signs, Jesus could have replied, “I’m only human.”

This is at the core of Paul’s contrasts between Christ and the first human Adam.  In Romans 5, for example, Paul contrasts Adam, whose disobedience to his Creator delivered sin, frustration, and death to all humanity, with Jesus Christ, whose obedience brought the eternal life.  Similarly, in his magnificent discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul calls Jesus the “last Adam” (v. 45), highlighting where Christ fulfilled humanity’s purpose.

This fulfillment, writes Paul, results in the supply of the life-giving Spirit.  And it is this Spirit – the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ himself – that allows humanity, even here and now, to experience the very life that Jesus lived.  Put briefly, it is the Spirit of the living Christ that makes possible a new kind of human life for every person.  It is the opportunity to live the same kind of truly human life that Jesus lived.

Sometimes I wonder whether God is watching us from heaven and waiting for the day when “I’m only human” becomes the explanation for bringing life and peace into the world.