Moltmann Monday: On our way to true humanity

Happy Moltmann Monday! I’m in a Theology of Hope kind of mood, so today’s selection comes from this section where he’s talking about how we become humanized when we follow God. (I mean, we could just stop there and have enough to think about already, right?!) Note: Moltmann wrote this in 1967, when it was the norm to use “man” to mean both men and women. I’m not going to change his words, but if you don’t know him, know he’s an upright feminist and those words are meant to be inclusive. :)

In his call, man is given the prospect of a new ability to be. What he is and what he can do, is a thing he will learn in hopeful trust in God’s being with him. Man learns his human nature not from himself, but from the future to which the mission leads him….Now in the Old Testament such calls and commissions are particular and contingent. They relate to a single people and a few prophets and kings. They contain specific historic charges. Hence they do not yet provide any clue to the human nature of man as such. In the New Testament, however, mission and call are directed ‘without distinction’ to Jews and Gentiles. The call to hope and to participation in the mission here becomes universal…

For indeed the believer does not understand himself as the adherent of a religion which is one possibility among others, but as being on the way to true humanity, to that which is appointed for all men….What man is in body and soul, in partnership and society, in the domination of nature, is disclosed in its reality only from the direction of the life he lives.

Okay, first, when Moltmann says “call” he does not mean only those people who are called into having a job that includes ministry. He’s not talking about “professional Christians,” as the saying goes. Call is something given to every person who has ever chosen to follow the way of Jesus. (That probably means you if you are reading this.) He explains that we see this call in a narrower sense in the Old Testament, in stories of how a charge or a mission was given to select people. Moses was called to lead the people out of Egypt. Elijah was called to be a prophet, etc.  But in the New Testament, the call of God goes viral. At Pentecost and beyond, the whole thing goes all kinds of haywire, landing on all kinds of people who were supposed to be “outside” of this special group of called people. It includes Gentiles, as crazy as that seemed at the time. It includes you, and me. We are all called to the mission of God, which is, to put it simply, to bring new creation through the good news. Moltmann says that people learn our human nature- our truest selves- by living toward this future that God is unfolding. We become ourselves by walking toward God’s future, in a way that’s in step with God’s future.

We are not, then, just people who belong to this global religion called Christianity. Well, we’re not only that. We are people who are on our way to true humanity, something that’s designed for every person on the planet. We are created to be true humans, to live into true humanity. And look- news flash. We aren’t doing this well. I did this poorly I don’t know how many times just in the last week. We aren’t getting up every day earning Nobel Peace Prizes. But that’s not the whole story. The bigger question is in what direction we are walking. When we fall, or do something terribly, or misread something or someone, or can’t find our patience, or whatever, the big question is: what do we do the next morning? Do we keep walking toward the future of God, just as imperfectly as before? If so, then, yes. We are on our way. We are headed toward true humanity, which, through this crazy way the Spirit works in us and through us and around us, will become more real in our lives as we go. The big question is: what is the direction of the life we’re living? And if we find one day that it’s the wrong direction (which we will, like, a zillion times), we get up, and we turn toward God, and we try again, knowing we’re loved just as much as we were before.

That is super hard to do, sometimes. Some days it just seems futile and the world seems awful and you wonder if people are worth it and if you are a hopeless case. But here’s the silver lining of hope: we have been given a new ability to be. And we learn this way of being in the hopeful trust that comes from knowing this one, precious, beautiful thing: God is with us.

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