“I’m only human.”
Ever said that yourself, or had someone else say it to you? If you think about the context of when we say this, it is usually offered to cover a mistake or, worse yet, a sin. We associate our shortcomings with being a creature.
In one sense, it makes sense to acknowledge that “to err is human.” As human beings fallen in Adam, issuing forth from our very nature will be transgressions, failures, and omissions.
Yet when we offer this phrase, most often it is done not to take responsibility for our actions but to excuse them. We say, “I’m only human” with a shoulder-shrugging, palms-up, half-grin look on our faces as if to say we could not help what we just did or failed to do. We simply want to brush our hands clean of the incident and keep moving on.
But hold on. Let us not forget as humans we were made in the image of God, which means we were created to reflect His “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.10). Though being human in our fallen state means errors of all varieties will be committed by us, being human essentially means it should not be this way. When we fail or hurt others, intentionally or not, it should grieve us. In such instances, I should not say, “I’m only human, so what do you expect?” I should say, “I’m human, and this is not to be expected.”
How all this excuse-making and responsibility-avoiding behavior should show us our need for Christ, true God and also true Man. He “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man” the Nicene Creed tells us. Or, in the modern vernacular, He “was made human.” His humanity was taken on not to provide a cover for His error, for He had none. Rather, He assumed manhood and lived in His humanity perfectly in order to expose just how sin-riddled we truly are, to remove every one of our transgressions with His vicarious death, and to grant us His Spirit so the image of God within us could be renewed and restored. That’s bringing dignity to our humanity, not downplaying it.
So the next time you are tempted to say, “I’m only human” to a friend, family member, or co-worker, think first of what it would mean to say that to Christ. Then take heart. Christ is able to sympathize with each of your weaknesses, to help you in His mercy acknowledge your wrongs, to grant you forgiveness, and to bring reconciliation with those your fallen humanity has injured.
Why? Because He is human.