In the days before Jesus was born, it appears through historical accounts that humankind was considered nearly worthless. God, on the other hand, was considered the most valuable thing ever. The most cherished aspect of God at that time was God’s commandments. God’s words were considered more valuable than any human, any human relationship and certainly anything humans could make. The Israelite people thought that Babylon, Greece or Rome could take their land, destroy their Temple, rebuild one in honor of the Caesar, and impose crushing taxes on them; but, they believed, no army or ruling class or race of people could take God’s commandments away from them. The occupying army of Rome also believed human flesh was basically worthless. The most valuable thing was to follow their ruler and his rules. It was in this setting that Jesus healed, preached and proclaimed the Good News of God.
Scholars refer to this as the divinity of God and the divinity of God’s commands. The Torah (the first five books of what we now call the Old Testament), the Temple and, needless to say, God, are all divine. Humans were not worth dirt. The Roman Army believed the Caesar was divine and therefore what he commanded was also divine and also believed humans were not worth dirt.
Do you see an inherent conflict here?
Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God was around us and inside each one of us. He favored widows, single moms and children – who would be on the bottom of the humans-aren’t-worth-dirt chart. And, by his lifting up the bread and the cup and saying, “This is my body for you, take and eat,” Jesus effectively proclaimed that God is divine, God’s creation is divine, which includes humankind. In other words, because God is holy, human kind is holy. That message was certainly counter cultural in Jesus’ day.
I wonder if our American culture has lifted humankind, specifically human flesh, above God’s holiness. Or, have we lowered God’s holiness so that to live into the flesh has become more cherished than pursuits of God? I enjoy watching and participating in sports. Playing catch with my boys is right up there with some of the greatest joys of my life. Nevertheless, there is a fleshy-ness to sports that raises up the athletic body to be the pinnacle of life. Maybe that is why I am a little put-off by athletes who have “tatted-out” their entire bodies. American culture has certainly placed a high emphasis on the sexuality of humankind. Has human sexuality been raised higher than God’s holiness? What about the commands from God – to love one another, treat others as you would like to be treated, and love God with all one’s heart. Have those commands taken a back seat to the pursuit of property, sports titles and undying (and unachievable) youthful images of our own bodies?
The days of humankind being worth nothing are over and that is a good thing, but I’d like to see the counter cultural message of following God in our bodies, and the holiness of God, reimaged just as Jesus proclaimed.