We’ve been looking at what it is that God set before us to do as human beings. These tasks set us apart because they are tasks belonging to the image of God. Therefore, we think, work, and dance.
Something went wrong, however. Christian doctrine has always affirmed the fallenness of all humanity, not because it is intellectually agreeable or precisely definable, but because it is undeniable in experience. Pascal said it was the most incomprehensible doctrine, yet without it we cannot comprehend ourselves; Chesterton (following a Wesleyan argument) said it was nonetheless the most empirically verifiable truth in the world. Produce the person who has never failed to do what was known by that person’s own conscience–not an external code–to be right, or has never done what conscience knew to be wrong. If so, the doctrine is in some small jeopardy. But that is for another day; what I’m interested in here is the effect on our thinking, working, and dancing enacted by our own sin and the sins of others.
Sin disenables us to see and reason rightly, as well as discouraging us from acknowledging our errors of thought even when brought before us. Work is attended with difficulties, not only because of weeds and crooked lumber, but because of the difficulty we have in communicating with one another and cooperating through the fog of egos, insecurities, distrusts, etc. Our dominion is exercised over one another rather than strictly over nature, and even in that arena, it is done more for glory of self than of God. We dance to strange tunes, before gods of our own making, or maybe simply by ourselves. The movements are strained not flowing, individually focused not corporately, and produce clumsy falls not graceful, heavenward reaches.
The incarnation is a doctrine about the humanity of Jesus; it demonstrates God’s clear judgment that it is not wrong to be human, but it is wrong to be so sinfully, selfishly, guardedly. As a human, he thought, worked, and danced in the way of flesh and blood people, but did so as intended. His death, resurrection, and ascension overcame our failings, inaugurated a new regime on the earth, into which we are invited to participate in and through the Holy Spirit. That new regime, the kingdom, operates differently. It is the place where thinking, working, and dancing with one another and with God are renewed possibilities. We pray for it, and when we do so we also acknowledge that it is God’s own, not ours.
We are set to do what we could not do before. We become again and for the first time God’s agents. His icons. His symbols. Follow Jesus to the feast (John 7); on the “last and greatest day,” he announced that springs of water would flow from those who believe. Not into, not onto, not around, but from. It would refresh the parched ones. That’s what we have been remade to do–refresh, replenish, reorient, renew. A faith that has us waiting around until another world comes along to give us our real significance misses this; and when it does, we continue to think little, work aimlessly and dance grotesquely. That’s not what we’re made to do.