What do you think of yourself? How do you define your humanity? Do you think of your limitations, your flaws of character, your sin? What do you call yourself? Adulterer? Thief? Prostitute? Black? White? Asian? Sinner? Worthless? Are these labels you can apply to yourself?
These labels, and others, may be true. But there is a greater truth to your existence. And it begins with this: Labels dehumanize because they relegate us to limited or no value.
What value was a slave, or a criminal, or an adulterer, or a liar? Some of these labels are true descriptions, but they also dehumanize because they offer no solution to the problems they describe. Sin always dehumanizes because it is a way of living contrary to our design of dignity. But there is one thing that wipes all of this away.
The incarnation humanizes.
The incarnation is the act of the eternal God of the universe becoming a man in Jesus Christ. Why does the incarnation of Jesus Christ humanize? Because, in part, the incarnation elevates man to a supreme label, the restored image of God. It is in the image of God that we find our true identity.
I'm not just a former adulterer. I am not just a former thief. I am not just white, or black, or Asian, or anything else. I am more than the sum of these labels. I am something more. I am in the image of God. I am human. Because God became a man in Jesus Christ, God demonstrates the ultimate worth of man in his eyes. God did not become a lion, or a horse, or monkey, or a caterpillar, or an ant. He became human, adding to himself that which he values as much as he values himself, as much as he values his own Son. Let the meaning of that sink in.
God loves and values you as much as he loves and values his own Son.
If I reject Christ then I reject his plan of restoring his image in me. As a result, I dehumanize myself and declare God's worth to be less than my own as if the image of God he wants me to be is of no value. This, effectively, dethrones God in our estimation and leaves man with no hope other than the labels he creates to describe us as less than we can become.
Like slavery, abortion is the ultimate dehumanizer. If babies can be killed at will, then why not sell their parts? People scream about the immoral selling of baby body parts. But which is worse, the sale or the murder that enables the sale?
What do we call a baby at various stages in the womb? Fetus. Zygote. Blastocyst. Embryo. They tend to make us think of something less than "baby" or "human" in our abortion tolerating culture. If it's not human or a baby, then why feel guilt over killing it?
But the reality is that these medical words are really nothing more than labels which describe a human life in various stages of formation. Therefore, while men may use these labels to dehumanize a child in the womb, to say that it is less than it really is, the reality is that it remains a human being, an image of God both potential and actual.
The incarnation transcends our labels. The incarnation transcends dehumanization. If man is the pinnacle of God's creation, if saving man is the highest work of God, then the value of man is beyond estimation. While our willful sin dehumanizes us and makes us unworthy of salvation, the act of God in the incarnation expresses inestimable worth for the image of God so that God's ultimate achievement may be realized: man, in a creaturely way, becoming like God.
What labels to you apply to yourself? Stupid? Worthless? Fool? Criminal? Coward? Faithless? Unfaithful? Beyond hope or help?
You are more. And you can be much more than you know if you accept the reality of the incarnation and the ultimate price paid for your sin as a result of the incarnation of Jesus. Then, and only then, can you find your ultimate worth and fulfillment. In Christ, you are the image of God. And for man, there can be no higher label.