If you’re still looking to give something up for Lent, I’ve got an idea for you: give up original sin. Seriously, just consider letting it go. Try it out for six weeks and, if you really miss it, I guess you can do the weird thing of picking it up as an act of celebrating resurrection come Easter morning. What I bet will happen instead is that you realize it is not necessary to your faith, and probably is actually hindering you in a few key ways, and that original blessing helps you see others with more compassion and honesty, and wow will it expand your view of Jesus, not to mention the cross. (More on that next week.)
Let go of original sin for Lent. Take up original blessing. And, because I want to help you with this important Lenten practice, I’m sharing some thoughts today from God in Creation that will do just that. We’re picking up where Moltmann is describing humans as both the image of God (imago Dei) and the image of the world (imago mundi):
As ‘image of the world’ (the human) stands before God as the representative of all the other creatures. He lives, speaks and acts on their behalf. Understood as imago mundi, human beings are priestly creations and eucharistic beings. They intercede before God for the community of creation.
Understood as imago Dei, human beings are at the same time God’s proxy in the community of creation. They represent his glory and his will. They intercede for God before the community of creation. In this sense they are God’s representatives on earth.
If human beings stand before God on behalf of creation, and before creation on behalf of God, and if this is their priestly calling, then in a Christian doctrine of creation human beings must neither disappear into the community of creation, nor must they be detached from that community. Human beings are at once imago mundi and imago Dei. In this double role they stand before the sabbath of creation in terms of time. They prepare the feast of creation.
Because we were the last to be created on earth, we hold within us much of what is earthly. And because we were created in God’s image, we hold within us much of what is divine. You could say we hold within us the knowledge of both good and evil, the reality of both presence and transcendence, the tension of the now and the not yet, the beauty of impermanence and the glory of eternal life.
It is a special role that only humans hold, this in-between-ness where we are tasked with guarding creation (which is really what having dominion means) as well as reflecting the glory of God. It’s why, when people ask if I believe in the priesthood of all believers, my answer is “yes” followed by “you don’t even know the half of it.” There is a naturally priestly role to being human. And that is a responsibility that we have turned away from for far too long.
The sad trade we make with original sin is that we decide instead to deny our priestly calling, both toward the earth and toward God, and instead tell ourselves that we are unable to do what God has asked us to do because we have a sin nature that doesn’t allow it.
That simply isn’t biblical.
There’s a song on the radio called Human by Rag n’ Bone Man. I actually like the song, but I have to disagree with his theology. He sings, “I’m only human after all, don’t put your blame on me.” Well. Here is the weirdest thing about original sin. Pay attention to this dipsy-doodle move. Ready? When we say we have a sin nature, we actually let ourselves off the hook for the very task of being rightly human. We make everything God’s problem, because we’re only human, and we are incapable of anything but generally asking forgiveness for the ways we inevitably mess up. And we think we get away with it because we somehow divert attention to God (we need God so much, God is so sovereign), but it ain’t the right kind of attention.
Look: that is the easy way out of this thing, and again, it’s not biblical. We may be only human, but there’s nowhere else to put the blame but on us. If we’re going to be bold enough to ask for forgiveness, we have to be bold enough to take the full measure of responsibility for what we do. We are human, imago Dei and imago mundi, capable of both good and evil. But what original sin denies and forgets is that we are created for a divine purpose, for life eternal. We are designed to create life in the choices we make and the work we do and the love we give and the mercy we extend and the care we provide to all of creation. We are “only human,” but we can’t forget how powerful a thing that is.
We intercede on creation’s behalf to God, and we reflect the image of God to everything and everyone else on earth.
We are absolutely called to do this, and we are called to do it to the best of our ability. And we are not left only to our own devices to do so, because we have the image of God within us and the blessing of God at our center and the love of God surrounding us and the presence of Christ among us and the power of the Spirit of God prevailing in us always. So it is with gratitude and good pleasure that we can say it is our joyful responsibility to prepare the feast of creation. Do you even know how fantastic that is?!
We are here to set the Table for our King. We don’t have to provide the sustenance, but we have the distinct privilege of readying the house for its most honored guest. And the joke is on us, at the end, because as it turns out Jesus is not your normal king and somehow we end up being the honored guests once we are all seated. We end up being invited to this celebration of life here on earth, in all its fullness, with all its glory, even as we did the work of preparing the Table for this feast.
So this Lent, may you prepare the feast. May you honor your humanity in all its power, and recognize those places where you may need to move back toward life, and celebrate those places where you find life flourishing. And above all, may you know that the blessing which resides at your center is the seat of all your power, giving you inherent dignity and the safety and security to confront whatever may happen along the way.