What does it mean to be human? Who are we in relation to God? Who are we the moment we are conceived? What is our true nature? At the very foundation of our soul who am I? How does God see me? These are all very important questions, and as we move through Lent, considering our sin and considering the suffering of our Savior, these questions become even more prominent.
First, what does it mean to be human? To be human is to be a unique creation of God. God created you. He created you in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) and declares that fact to be very good (Genesis 1:31). Despite our fallen nature, we are still good. We still have free will, the ability to make choices. We still have the ability to love, to reason, to contemplate, and to seek knowledge. While it is true that our ability to exercise these abilities is impeded by original sin, they are still a part of us, albeit flawed.
But aren’t we still bad? No.
We do bad things. But that does not make us pure evil. And if we aren’t purely evil, which is the absence of good, it must mean that we have some amount of good. How large that good is, is largely dependent on the individual, but it exists nonetheless. How do we know we aren’t purely evil? Because God cannot love something that is the exact opposite of him. God is a pure good. He is goodness itself. He is the perfect good. He is good being good. Pure evil is the complete absence of God. God cannot love that in any way. It is impossible. There is no such thing as pure good loving pure evil. And we know that we are not evil because God loves us.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
Jesus died for us before our justification. God’s love was made manifest to sinners before they ceased to be sinners. He loved us even in sin because deep down we are made in HIS image, and HE is good. To deny the basic goodness of the human person is to deny Scripture, it is to deny God’s own goodness, and since God is the source of all good, it is to deny the existence of goodness at all in the universe.
How does God see us? Well we already know that even in our flawed state, in our own struggle to do good, Christ sees us with compassion.
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
St. Matthew 9:35-36
Jesus looked at the un-redeemed crowds, Jews and Gentiles and had compassion on them. Like mentioned before, God cannot have compassion on pure evil. It is against His very nature, the very heart of who He is. Yet, Scripture says that God has compassion on us. God looks at all of us with compassion. He knows that we are harassed on all sides by the evil one. He knows that we desire good, that we desire love, that we desire truth, but that is difficult for us to always make the right choice. He sees us desire all the things that he is and he moves to take pity on us.
At the very beginning of time, God created us exactly the way he desired us to be. We lived in paradise and we were very good. We were made in the image of God. Out of selfishness, Satan tempted our first mother to disobey God. She was a perfect creature to that point. In her goodness, she still chose to sin. That act never annihilated her good. It just made it more difficult for her to make that choice in the future. Her goodness and desire for goodness was used against her.
Our lives have been full of mistakes. Our intrinsic good has become flawed, but not eliminated. And so Jesus came to restore that good beyond even its original state. And that’s what we do this Lenten season, we cooperate with Christ and work towards sanctification as we anticipate the event that makes it all possible.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”