Ch 12: A New Way To Be Human

All the way back in the introduction to this book, I quoted Jonathan Gottschall’s book The Storytelling Animal, in which he writes, “The human mind was shaped for story, so that it could be shaped by story.” We’ve now come full circle, having traced the story that God is writing from Genesis all the way to Revelation. Along the way we’ve seen themes slowly emerge, first in shadow form and then growing clearer and clearer. We’ve traced narrative threads like the great reversal, in which God is overturning hell’s ideology; or the image of God and what it means to represent God and reign for him; or God’s presence with his people, the Country our hearts long for. Those themes started out blurry, were sharpened by the prophets, crystalized in Jesus, and then were embodied in the people of his kingdom. And finally, at the end of the story we see those themes taking over the world and making everything beautiful again.

The spectacular story of king and country which the Bible is all about is the story for which we were made. This is the narrative that makes sense of all our hopes and fears and gives meaning and comfort to our longings. But the narrative of king and country isn’t just supposed to give us a general sense of purpose. It is the story that your soul was designed to inhabit. It is a guidebook for every interaction, a light shining into every nook and cranny of our lives, transforming us in the process. This is the story that shapes us, and living in this story changes everything.

The rock band Switchfoot’s sophomore album, “New Way to Be Human” broke new ground musically in both the Christian and secular music scenes. In the album’s title track, lead singer Jon Foreman sang about freedom from the tyranny of a life dictated by other stories. Chasing meaning in any other narrative will ultimately fail, leaving us incomplete and less than human. The lyrics of the song are simple yet profound:

With all of our fashion
We’re still incomplete
The God of redemption
Could break our routine
 
There’s a new way to be human
It’s nothing we’ve ever been
There’s a new way to be human

Redemption, Jon Foreman sings, breaks into our futile narrative-constructing and kingdom-building with an alternate way of existence. “There’s a new way to be human,” a new way to live out our calling, a new story to inhabit. But how do we participate in this new way to be human? The final chorus switches up the words, singing directly to the perfect human, the Son of Man:

You’re a new way to be human
Where my humanity bends
To a new way to be human
Redemption begins
You’re a new way to be human
You’re the only way to be human

Jesus is “the only way to be human,” the only road that leads us back to the completeness of our existence. Ever since the fall, Satan’s kingdom has trapped us in sub-human slavery, unable and unwilling to ascend back to the purpose for which we were made. Redemption, then, is nothing less than a restoration of our humanity, a return to full image-bearing dominion. And so, in one sense, Jesus’ “new way to be human” is actually the restoration of the old, original way to be human. Jesus invites us into the restoration of the human project, into the new humanity he is building, a life overflowing with fullness and meaning and purpose.

This “new way to be human” touches every corner of our existence. It’s not just a new way to read the Bible or a new way to go to church. It’s a whole new way to live. It’s a new way to do the dishes, a new way to go to work, a new way to eat dinner, a new way to vote, a new way to build relationships, a new way to do mission and evangelism and mercy and justice. It has something to say to both weddings and funerals, birthday parties and hospital beds, homeless drug addicts and billionaire tycoons. It gives cosmic meaning to sunrises, pepperoni pizza, paper cuts, and politics. This story really does change absolutely everything.

It would be impossible for one book to comprehensively tackle everything that this “new way to be human” means. So in this third section, having traced the whole narrative of king and country, I want to give a diverse sample of ten different areas that this story touches and transforms. The point of this sample is not to be exhaustive, but rather is intended to launch you from this grand story back into the world, so that you can begin exploring the whole terrain of human existence with new eyes and a new heart.

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