I started an account at MySpace about a year ago, and forgot all about it. The other day, I popped in and discovered I had a Friend. I don’t know the guy, but it appearsÂ our Interests are the same. We like hiking, philosophy, Radiohead, Apocalypse NowÂ and the erhu.
MySpace, like many online communities, is built around peoples’ similarities and shared interests. We can relate to anyone, provided there’s enough bridges.Â So what if someone believes we ascended from apes and conservatives are morons, as long as they’re a Laker fan, we can be Friends.
Anyway,Â these bridges to the secular mind are an important part of Christian outreach. Some call it Relationship Evangelism and go into great detail aboutÂ bridge building with the non-religious. Most of these techniques revolve around looking for common interests and shared ideals. I know, it sounds a bit sneaky. But riding motorcycles or eating pizza together can be the first step in proselytizing the prodigal.
From my vantage, American culture is strewn with remnants of its Judeo-Christian heritage. Statistics regularly show that, despite our secularization, most Americans still believe in God, angels, miracles and the afterlife. Like it or not, we speak in the language of absolutes, believe that Someone is watching us and that, if we’re not good, we will spend forever in a very bad place. These concepts, however twisted and undeveloped, are bridges into the Western mind.
One such phrase that we Westerners use — whether we’reÂ believers or not — is the adage: I’m only human. The saying hasÂ passed into our cultural lexiconÂ and, I’d suggest, means the same for everyone who uses it — religious and irreligious alike. No doubt, it is often used as a copout for irresponsible behavior (“So I cheated on my wife, gambled away our entire savings and acquired a lifetime supply of tweed. Hey, I’m only human”). But nevertheless,Â the statement reflects a very biblical worldview.
The person who claims to be “only human” is admitting two things: 1.) They aren’t perfect, and 2.) They should be.
C.S. Lewis, in his classic Christian apologetic Mere Christianity, based his entire thesis on two similar points:
These are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.
When a person claims they are only human, we understand them to meanÂ that they’re fallen, flawed, imperfect, screwed up; they “ought to behave in a certain way,” but don’t. The saying really indicts all of us. Because we’re all humans, we’re all screwed up. So when a person admits to being “only human,” they are admitting to being like you and me.
But if being human means being fallen, it also implies a standard, idealÂ or position we’ve abdicated or fallen from. As Peter Kreeft puts it, in his wonderful work, Handbook of Christian Apologetics:
One of the most widespread “myths” (sacred stories) in the world is the myth of a past paradise lost, a time without evil, suffering or death. . . We behave as if we remember Eden and can’t recapture it, like kings and queens dressed in rags who are wandering the earth in search of their thrones.
Human depravity is one of the most undeniable, objective evidences for the validity of the Christian worldview. It is a bridge betweenÂ believers and unbelievers, a fact that cannot be avoided, glossed over or denied. I cannot prove that the Bible is God’s Word, but I can prove that people are not gods. Just ask their spouse. Even the most adamant atheist must admit they do notÂ perfectly live up to the standards theyÂ espouse. Furthermore,Â human history is aÂ tragic record of man’s search for something Other, something which he cannot seem to fully possess.Â Even the most wealthy, powerful, succesful, beautiful people get divorced, addicted and cannibalized by their own “humanity.”
Okay, maybe I’m making too much out of the tired old phrase. ButÂ when I hear someone admit they’re only human, I can’t help but spy an opportunity, a bridge. Sure, they’re probably not thinking about Eden and the estate they squandered.Â But they are admitting to having sinned andÂ fallen short. And in that, despite our differences, we are Friends.Â