Who Am I?
What tumultuous times we travel. Otherwise normal, law-abiding citizens become friends with fundamental Islamists and somehow become “radicalized” to the point they are willing to take lives of innocents and lose their own for the cause. The question is where and when, not if there will be another massacre. The threat of global terrorism is raising many hard-to- answer questions.
Gender and sexual identity is a pressing cultural conundrum raising endless questions. Some parents do not enforce gender distinctions on their children but let them choose their own. Minor children in Oregon can now request a sex-change operation paid by tax-payers and this without parental consent. Public facilities in California are questioning the whole male/female restroom thing. And of course the SCOTUS decision last June to legalize homosexual and lesbian marriage was a landmark, epic shift in American culture with continuing ripples.
It seems that everything is being questioned, challenged, re-examined, turn upside down.
But are there more important, even more basic questions to consider?
Thoughtful people in their quiet moments (if such moments still exist in our techno-crazed world), should ask the same ultimate question that philosophers have asked for all human history – who am I? In the midst of the upheaval, how do I accurately and adequately describe, identify or define myself? Everyone needs to ponder this.
Before dealing with gender distinctions, before processing sexual desires or lack thereof, before going online to plumb the depths of your DNA to know your exact ethnic makeup, we must each ask this most basic of all questions. Have you ever done this?
Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. Everyone has an epistemology. Tradition of forefathers, science, your parents, the Church, a modern-day guru, your gut, or Google – everyone looks to something or someone as their basis of knowing what they know. So our beginning point must be a disclosure of my epistemology, my basis of authority and knowledge. It’s not me. I’m not the basis of knowing what I know. The Bible is. God’s Word is the sure depository of truth and the only time tested, truly satisfying source book of answers for man’s ultimate questions.
Like asking Siri, we must pose this question to the Bible. “Bible, who am I?” The answer comes in three parts.
First, you and I are offspring of our original parents, Adam and Eve. Regardless of how your conception came about, you are a descendent of the very first human beings who were uniquely and lovingly made by God Himself. He charged the happy couple with, “Be fruitful and multiply” and they have!
Man has adapted to his surroundings over the centuries but has not evolved from one species to the next. Evolution has never been proven or actually observed in living creatures. We are not the product of time and chance with endless random mutations until the primordial ooze became what we are today. We are the result of God having created Adam and Eve and calling on them to reproduce.
Second, you and I are made in the image of God. Just as children often resemble their parents, and walk, talk and even laugh like them without trying, so we as human beings bear the image of God, making us unique in all creation, without trying. No animal, tree or angel bears the image of God. Friend, you are His offspring, whether you like it or not. In Him we move, exist and have our being. And we should like this, because we are the pinnacle of creation, His special handiwork, charged with ruling over and caring for the earth as God’s representatives.
Theologians and philosophers have debated for ages what this image of God entails. I think it includes the dominion principle of ruling over the earth and animals as Genesis one describes. It includes the fact that we have an immortal soul/spirit that will go on forever. It includes our potential to commune with God who is Spirit. I think it includes our intelligence, creative impulses, love of beauty, innate sense of justice and our propensity to communicate, make, discover, reproduce, and worship. Our desire to be loved and to love also reflects the image of God in us. Any rational person can easily see the massive gulf between us and the animals, between us and the rest of creation.
Because we resemble God, even if imperfectly, every human, from conception to the grave, is worthy of honor, respect, and dignity. Even the ax murderer is still a human being in the image of God. As such, he should be punished because he is a morally accountable creature of God but with as much dignity as possible. Bearing God’s image is what gives every person infinite value beyond a cockroach. This is why every life matters, no matter skin tone, language, age, or gender. This is what we all have in common and why we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This is why no one is innately more valuable or intrinsically more important than any other person, no matter their talent, looks, riches, behavior or position in life.
But these two parts alone aren’t the complete answer. If this is all we had, it would not adequately explain our personal lives and the world we observe.
So third, we all share one more trait. Every child of Adam is a tarnished image bearer from birth. In time we commit personal sin and engage in lawless behavior because we were born with a sinful nature. Who am I? I’m a law breaker at heart and actually pretty skilled at it. So are you.
God is holy and as such has built in a moral code into our very being. His laws of right and wrong are written upon our hearts. In time, He summarized this Law for His chosen people the Jews and we call the summary the Ten Commandments. It shares many similarities with other law codes in other civilizations. The point is we all have this law and thus we all have experienced a guilty conscience. All people in all places have transgressed the law of God written upon their hearts. Everyone feels the pang of guilt, excluding certain presidential candidates of course.
To sum up, you are a child of Adam made in the image of God but a breaker of His moral code, a transgressor of His law. I submit to you these three truths are the most intellectually and philosophically satisfying explanation of our existence and the human experience across all generations. Only these truths explain the world we live in, with its glory and gore, promise and pain, grace and justice and injustice, good and evil. No other explanation takes into account all the facts and gives us such a reasonable explanation as to our origins, problems and sense of guilt.
Past our name, lineage and ethnicity, past any religious, political, mental or social labels, we are children of Adam born in the image of God who have broken His moral code and violated our own built-in standards of behavior. We have the capacity to relate to God, if only the problem of our guilt can be solved.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight