What Does It Mean To Be Human

By Pastor Elijah Mwitanti

In times such as now, it is important for the people of God to pause and ask ourselves the question that has been gnawing at me – increasingly so as I get older. What does it mean to be human? The answer to this question will shape the way we navigate the perilous waters we are sailing in, mainly the pandemic and race relations. 

The answer to this question is both simple and complex. It’s simple by definition but complex by obligation. I looked at the dictionary definition of human and was disappointed by what I found. So I decided to come up with my own and that is that a human is “every person reading this.” This means the definition of human is yourself and that should be simple. You know the definition of human by simply waking up each morning. Where it makes the difference is when you ask yourself what obligations come with your humanity. What does it take to be the you you were created to be? The answer to this question is vertically and horizontally relational. Vertically, your you is shaped by your relationship with God. Horizontally, your you is shaped by your relationship with neighbor. 

So what implications do these two relationships have with where we find ourselves in the first week of June in 2020? Let’s look at the COVID-19 pandemic first. We argue over whether or not to stay home or wear a mask because we consider our personal freedom infringed on. This means the virtue of caring for one another (horizontal) is tramped by the focus on “me.” Our obligations to protect the neighbor are abandoned. Vertically, we can face the COVID-19 pandemic with the unyielding faith that our God is not unaware of our fear, pain, and suffering and that He will sustain us during the pandemic even as He grants wisdom to the scientists and medical professionals. 

With regards to race relationships, we vertically look to God as the creator of humankind in His image. This moves us into that space where we ask ourselves whether our sense of being better than another can come from the God whose image is uniformly and universally distributed in all human beings. Certainly not. This then moves us to the recognition of the horizontal obligations we have to care for the wellbeing of one another regardless of the amount of melanin we possess or how we are physically and anatomically constructed. We begin to look for ways in which our policies, attitudes and culture reflect our awareness of every person’s dignity.

It is therefore obvious that the struggles we are currently facing as a nation are rooted in the fear to define ourselves as humans because of the horizontal and vertical responsibilities that such a definition entails. May I ask us who gather at Good Sam to use the quarantine as a season during which God gives us the grace and courage to define our humanity and live it under His divinity.