Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why You Really Are Great

If there is one thing that we, as a society, struggle to comprehend, it is the value of a human being.  This critical misunderstanding drives virtually every debate, every argument, every conflict, every war; every confrontation in the modern world comes from the fact that I do not understand why I should find you worthwhile.  Abortion, sexual ethics, racism, poverty, discrimination, warfare, all based on the misunderstanding of human value.  People are great.  You'd struggle to find someone who completely disagrees with that premise, but you could very well spark a bloody war (or even worse, an internet flame war) trying to identify just why people are great.

The general consensus of our society is that we are valuable because of things about us:  our appearance, our abilities, talents, beliefs, histories, possessions, personalities, etc.  A great man or woman might be great because they are intelligent, or rich, or powerful, or have a strong personality.  A mediocre person might be mediocre because they sit on their couch all day and have a crappy resume.  We evaluate each other based on utility, on traits, on ability the ability to express oneself upon the world around us.  This is why Alexander the Great is "the Great" and you cousin Alexander is not "the Great", because your cousin didn't conquer the better part of the known world in his early twenties.  This is why the United States is a great nation and Eritrea is not, because the United States expresses its influence all around the world and Eritrea does not.

This idea of greatness has its merits, one can't really deny that.  Our gifts are not given to us without reason, and our society runs because people use the gifts their given to express themselves upon the world their in.  However, human beings are not merely the value of their gifts, because gifts do not last.  Madonna was a great musician... once.  Madonna no longer tops the charts because her music isn't as good and her looks aren't doing all that well, in other words, her gifts are fading.  Our abilities come and go with the passage of time, they change, they get better or worse depending on where or when we happen to be.  Or, to streamline the process, insert me, with a pick up truck.

4,000 lbs of instant inevitability
If Madonna were crossing the street and I, who just so happened to be rocking out to "Material Girl", was not paying attention and (with great irony) hit her with my truck, I could quickly hasten time's inevitable decay, a la brain damage.  We are all one hit and run away from vegetative states, and what becomes our gifts (and therefore, our value) then?

Mankind is great, not because of any extrinsic trait, but because of intrinsic value, a value that is infinite and incomparable.  And here's where it gets interesting.  You see, you and I are both valuable, intrinsically and regardless of our differing traits and abilities, but we're also uniquely valuable.  Most people like to find value in their abilities because it reaffirms their individuality, it tells them that they are one of a kind, that they are special and unique, which is why we tend to scoff at anyone who tells you that your value is independent of your unique traits.  Being valuable is not just merely finding worth, but finding worth that is entirely and completely unique.  Thus, some of you might scoff when I say "You are valuable regardless of your supposed individuality." because being equally valuable as everyone else just doesn't seem all that valuable.  But that's where you'd be wrong.

You are uniquely and infinitely valuable, not because of what you have done, are doing, or can do, but because of who you are.  Period.  Each and every person is unique, not in what they do, but in who they are.  Every human being is a unique creation of God, valuable in a respect completely unique from any other person.  This is why the king is worth no more than the slave, the CEO worth no more than the hobo, the master worth no more than the servant, because, in God's eyes, there are no kings or slaves or CEOs or hobos, just people.  Human beings.  Each of them absolutely and uniquely crafted and purposelessly loved by God.  People aren't valuable for what they have made, but because of Him Who Made Them.  You could change the world if you really believed that about everyone you met.  Yeah, its hard.  Our entire culture disagrees with this; it undermines the competitive system that our entire world is based on.  But it is the fundamental truth of human life.

If we, as Christians, are to understand our place in the history of salvation, we ought to first understand this very basic truth: you're not worthwhile because of what you have to offer, but because of what God has offered you.  Christianity is not like the rest of the world, which is constantly struggling to prove yourself worthy for the things you have and the things you want.  Christians have nothing to prove, for God's not interested in trading your good deeds for eternal salvation.  For Heaven is not a prize one by moral greatness, but a gift given to those who will receive it.  God does not admit into eternal peace those who have "earned it", for one cannot earn love, they can only receive and reciprocate it.  Heaven is for God the lover and we the beloved to love each other for all eternity, not because we're useful to each other, but because we delight simply in the fact that the other exists.   This is the heart of Christianity, not competition for greatness, but delightful, loving relationship with God.  Why are Christians supposed to be good people?  Not because our goodness proves our worth, but because the true recognition of our worth in God makes being good so delightful and effortless.  Goodness, to the Christian, is not so much a duty but a response, a consequence of the realization of just how loved we really are.

If you want to be a better person, if you want to be a better Christian, the best place to start is the contemplation of just how loved by God you really are for no reason other than the fantastic fact that you exist.  The growing realization that you are infinitely and eternally loved by God will change you, will cause you to return that love to God and to fellow man, will make Goodness inevitable and irresistible for you.  Think about it.

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