To be truly Human

You’d expect people to enjoy what they study when they come along to Bible college. After all, we’re pretty much all mature-age students & this isn’t just a course, but a calling. That said, my Ethics subject has been particularly awesome. Our set reading was to read 200 pages of one of 5 ethics books, but I managed to talk my lecturer into letting me read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Ethics.” Having suffering in Nazi Germany, been (loosely) involved in the assassination attempts on Hitler & finally Hung by the order of Hitler himself, I am sure Bonhoeffer had a practical view about ethics that most of us don’t get to experience.
At the moment, I have been reading his chapter called “Ethics as Formation” and it is just awesome. It is a real challenge to look at our nature as man & the Ethical formation of the Christian. As out modern society becomes absorbed by the idea that we can all be famous & that we will all find that niche where we can be “special”, it is great to read paragraphs like the following, that acknowledges the “warts and all” nature of man, and points toward the one super-human…

To be conformed to the one who has become human (that is, Jesus Christ) – that is what being really human means. The human being should and may be human. All super-humanity, all efforts to outgrow one’s nature as human, all struggle to be heroic or a demigod, all fall away from a person here, because they are untrue. The real human being is the object neither of contempt nor of deification, but he object of the love of God. The manifold riches of God’s creation are not violated here by a false uniformity, by forcing people to submit to an idea, a type, or a particular image of the human. The real human being is allowed to be in freedom the creature of the Creator. To be conformed with the one who became human means that we may be the human beings that we really are. Pretension, hypocrisy, compulsion, forcing oneself to be something different, better, more ideal than one is- all are abolished. God loves the real human being. God became a real human being.
To be conformed to the crucified- that means to be a human being judged by God. People carry with them every day God’s death sentence, that they must die before God because of sin. They demonstrate in their lives that before God nothing can stand except in judgement and in grace. Human beings die daily the death of sinners. They bear humbly the scars and the wounds that sin inflicts on body and soul. They cannot lift themselves above other people or establish themselves as models because they recognise themselves as the greatest of all sinners. One can forgive the sins of others, never one’s own. Human beings bear all suffering laid upon them, knowing that it serves them to die to their own will, and to let the justice of God prevail over them. Only by acknowledging that God is in the right over them and against them are they right before God. “In suffering does the master impress his all-sufficient image on the heart and on the spirit.”

It’s a helpful corrective to remind oneself that I too am a broken person & that as a minister, my goal and intention isn’t to set an example per-se, but to point people toward the one true example in Jesus Christ. Do I approach my youthgroup kids with this kind of mindset? Am I humble before them in the same way that I humble myself before God?
I’m not a big fan of posing questions to my readers, especially since I’ve become a blog slacker & my stats imply that I have little readership left. Still, here’s the question for the day. How open and broken should a minister appear before his congregation (insert “youth minister” or “Bible study leader” into the position of “minister” as required)? How does one marry their authentic christian humanity with their call to lead other people?

2 thoughts on “To be truly Human

  1. That’s a good question. It seems that (like everything else in Christianity) there’s a tension. On the one hand, we expect ministers to be people we can look up to and emulate as followers of Christ. On the other hand, ministers are human too, and if we have too high and unrealistic a view of them, we’ll be bitterly disappointed if they fall. Short answer: I don’t know!
    BTW, my cheeky thought while reading the first paragraph of this post was the Bonhoeffer must have had a very practical view of ethics after being hung. Bad Lara!

  2. Great question!
    I’ve got exposure to both kinds of teachers. On the one hand, I get to hear a lot of talks from Dominic Steele, who I think is more towards the “follow me” side of this discussion. On the other hand, Mike E (a minister at my church) is more at the “don’t follow me, I’m sinful” end.
    In the bible, we only get two really good and detailed examples of Christian ministry, those being Christ himself and Paul. If we were to model our ministry on Paul’s, then we would definitely be preaching “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. An intimidating thought I know, but a biblical one none the less.

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