Learn to Be Fully Human from the Son of Man
- Thursday, January 22, 2009
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dan Russ's new book, Flesh-and-Blood Jesus: Learning to Be Fully Human from the Son of Man, (Baker Books, 2008).
Jesus was fully God, yet He was also fully human. It may seem easier to focus on His divinity, with all of its glorious power. But Jesus Himself emphasized His humanity. He referred to Himself as the "Son of Man" more often than any other title recorded in the Gospels.
The more you get to know about Jesus’ human qualities, the more you can learn about yourself.
Here’s how Jesus' humanity can help you embrace your own human nature:
· Come to terms with your neediness. Jesus chose to accept the limitations of living as a human being in our fallen world when He left heaven to enter it. Like Jesus, you can admit and accept the fact that you must struggle with weaknesses and needs. Recognize the limits to what you can do, and let that knowledge motivate you to rely more fully on God. Understand how much you still have to learn, and let that knowledge cause you to seek God more. Let the reality of your neediness drive you closer to God, who offers the hope that will ultimately meet all of your needs.
· Find where you belong. Jesus spent His time on earth living within the limits of a particular body in a certain time and in specific places. View the circumstances of your own life as the gifts from God that they are – meant to help you fulfill His good purposes for you. Ask God to help you discover more about those purposes. Get to know where you’re from and where you should be going in life. Along the way, be fully present and enjoy the journey.
· Live in the tension between a parent’s will and God’s will. Jesus always acted in love toward Mary and Joseph, even when He disagreed with them. The tension between you as a grown child and your parents requires that you figure out how to love and honor them while still making your own decisions – even if they don’t agree with your choices. Ask God to use the tension to help you and your parents alike grow in maturity.
· Respond wisely to authority. Jesus obeyed the Father, the source of all authority, but still felt free to question God’s authority as He wrestled with challenging situations. Jesus also submitted to the authority of various people in His life – His parents, and religious and civil officials. Jesus shows you that authority is a gift from God to protect, guide, and bless you. He teaches you to discern authority’s legitimacy, challenge its abuse, and obey when it is righteous.
· Don’t be afraid to fail. Jesus failed many times – to live up to His own desires in a fallen world, and to other people’s misguided expectations of Him – even though He never sinned. It’s not necessarily a sin to fail. Don’t try to please everyone. Expect that you will sometimes disappoint the people you love. But when you do fail, you can fail gracefully and without sin. Learn all you can from your failures. Don’t give; keep on trying to do your best even after failing – just as Jesus did. Ask God to show you how you can best use your limited life to serve Him. Instead of fighting against the limits that God has placed on your life, wrestle with His will in love, choosing to submit while still being honest with Him about your frustrations. Trust God to use your failures to help you grow as a person.
· Build strong friendships. Jesus took the risk of making close friends. He grew close to His disciples and others, investing in the relationships without holding back. You need friends to discover and express who you are and who you’re choosing to become. Take the risk to reach out to others and build strong friendships. Expect God to use your friendships to transform you and the people with whom you’re friends.
· Deal with family dysfunctions. Jesus loved and honored His family for what they had given Him while still confronting and leaving them for what they didn’t give Him. No human family is perfect; even Jesus’ family was dysfunctional in some ways. But, as Jesus recognized, the family is a foretaste of the relationships God intends for all humanity to enjoy in heaven – strong bonds of love with God and each other. Recognize that everyone who does God’s will are your true family members, whether or not they’re related to you by blood or marriage. Having family values doesn’t mean being sentimental about those who share your household; it means living by God’s truths, responding to all your relationships with love and dignity and sharing a special bond with other believers. Keep in mind that your family should point you to something larger than itself – the universal bond between God and His people.
· Express your sexuality in healthy ways. Jesus embraced His sexuality without diminishing and distorting it into self-centered carnal satisfaction. Although He was a fully sexual being, He chose for the sake of fulfilling His calling to live a celibate life. He shows you that sexuality is about more than just sexual acts; it’s about living in the world as either a male or a female, and relating to others from that gender perspective. When Jesus encountered people who were struggling with sexual sin, He encouraged them to be honest about their sin, confess it without shame, and experience forgiveness and grace when they repented of it. Recognize that your sexuality is a gift from God that can bless you when expressed in healthy ways.
· Direct your anger toward a good purpose. Jesus got angry but didn’t sin in the process. He was frustrated with people who failed to understand Him and His teachings. He expressed righteous indignation toward people who were committing injustices. From Jesus, you can learn how to express your frustration in gracious ways that will motivate people to learn and grow more. You can use anger as creative energy to capture the attention of those you want to teach. You can also learn from Jesus’ example how to confront people who are doing or saying something morally wrong. When you get to know the facts, speak the truth in love, and prayerfully reflect on your own life, your righteous indignation is likely to be effective. Use your anger as a redemptive force to call attention to problems and help find solutions.
· Let your doubts and fears drive you to God. Jesus’ life showed that there’s nothing wrong with expressing doubts and fears. Honestly admitting your doubts and fears and praying about them can actually draw you closer to God, not farther away. God already knows that you’re experiencing them, and He wants you to bring them Him so you’ll discover more about your need for Him. The Bible is full of people’s expressions of doubt and fear to God. Just as Jesus boldly expressed His human doubts and fears during crucial moments of His life on earth, you can approach God with confidence, knowing that He cares about all of your feelings and will respond to your prayers. View your doubts and fears as God does – as opportunities to grow closer to Him.
· Aim to be real, not nice. Jesus didn’t fit the mold of stereotypical spirituality that prizes a nice, calm, and sweet demeanor over everything else. Instead of glossing over life, He connected at a deep level with other people’s triumphs and tragedies, rejoicing with them during good times and grieving with them during bad times. Jesus could be nice, but He could also be outspoken, edgy, melancholy, and fervent. He was passionately emotional, and He calls you to fully and deeply express your emotions as well – both in joy and in pain. Experience God’s passion for you and embody His passion for the world.
· Deal well with death. Jesus modeled how to let go of this world when it comes time to leave, and how to grieve loved ones who have already left this world. Rather than trying to avoid thinking about death or getting sentimental about it, face it head-on. Trust God when your own time comes to die, and don’t hesitate to fully grieve loved ones who have passed away.
· See hope in your scars. Jesus’ scars told the story of how His death on the cross redeemed the whole world. There’s redemptive value in your own scars, too. Don’t hide your scars – whether they’re physical or emotional – from others or ignore them yourself. Instead, let them remind you of the wounds you’ve suffered in the past and what you’ve learned as a result. Thank God for the healing and grace He has given you through the years. Tell others the stories of how God has helped you heal from your wounds and move on.
· Use food to grow closer to God. When Jesus enjoyed meals with others, they recognized more about Him than they had been able to understand before. Eat with your friends and family members often, and use the time to share your thoughts and feelings with each other. Celebrate the holiest meal of all – Communion – and let it draw you into deeper worship as you ponder all that Jesus has done for you.
Adapted from Flesh-and-Blood Jesus: Learning to Be Fully Human from the Son of Man, copyright 2008 by Dan Russ. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com.
Dan Russ (PhD, University of Dallas) is the director of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College. He has been a Young Life leader and a high school teacher, and he has taught business professionals, city planners, and attorneys in seminars on moral values and vision. Russ lives in Danvers, Massachusetts.
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