Earlier this week, Jon Foreman released the Sunlight EP, the first of his four Wonderland EPs that are planned for this year. As the front-man for the band Switchfoot, I have been a fan of Foreman's music for well over a decade. From Switchfoot's first albums to their newest albums, I have been a committed fan. Therefore, I was excited when I had learned that Jon Foreman planned on releasing another set of EPs over the course of the next year. Terminal, the first track on the new EP has led me to consider one of the major paradoxes of what it means to be human. If you want to hear the song, you can stream it through the following youtube video. You can also purchase the album on iTunes through this link. And if you wan to know the lyrics to the songs, here is a link for that as well.
One of the things I love about Jon Foreman's songs are how honest they are about the human condition. In this song, he examines the temporary and flawed nature of our existence. Everyone is terminal in some sense of the word. Physically, we will all die one day. He uses powerful imagery to describe our plight.
"Some folks die in offices, one day at a time, they could live a hundred years, but their soul's already died." He references our "terminal hearts" and "terminal parts." He says we are "Flickering like candles, fatally flawed, fatally flawed."
At the end of the song, you can faintly hear someone in the background sharing a short poem that is inspired by passages of Scripture, including Ecclesiastes 12:7, Psalm 103:15-16, Job 1:21 and 1 Timothy 6:7, each of which comments on the brevity of this life.
It is a sobering tune, painting an honest and raw picture of the human life. The final line of the song ends with the phrase, "We're fatally flawed in the image of God."
This got me thinking about the paradox of what it means to be human. We have immense worth and value as men and women who are created in the image of God. Yet, we have a desperate and flawed existence. Even in our flawed condition, God's radical love put Jesus on the cross to redeem our situation. Even in the pain of our lives, there is a beautiful hope in God's love.
Created in the image of God - the Imago Dei
When God created men and women, the Bible says that God created them in His own image.
"Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."
- Genesis 1:26-27
This has become known as the Imago Dei. The value of humanity is linked to the reality that we were created in the image of God. Even after the fall, God still cites the image of God as a prohibition for murder (Gen 9:6). Even though we now live under the weight of sin, we still retain the image of God. We are still immensely valuable to God as his image bearers. This is important. It is important for our understanding of our own self-worth. It is important for our understanding of the worth and value of those around us. You and I are not primarily valuable because we have a job, a spouse, a title, a position, an education, a promotion, an accolade, or any other number of things. The foundation of our worth and value is the fact that we are image bearers of the Creator God.
The heart is deceitful above all things
If we are in tune with what it means to be human, we also know that something is just not right. We are fatally flawed. There is sickness and disease. There is war, genocide, bullying and many other horrific things that humans do to one another. We also experience famine, earthquakes and tsunamis. Something has gone wrong with the world.
Shortly after God created humanity in his image, we failed to live up to our worth and value. We decided that we didn't just want to bear the image of God, we wanted to be God for ourselves. Adam and Eve ate the fruit and sin entered the world. The Bible has some bleak descriptions of the human condition in light of sin. Here are just a few:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"
- Jeremiah 17:9
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death."
- Proverbs 16:25
"They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one."
- Psalm 14:3
"As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more."
- Psalm 103:15-16
When we take an honest look at our own lives and the world around us, these descriptions have deep resonance. It is tempting to want to mask our true condition, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. The glorious thing about God's story is that he didn't leave his image bearers to fix up their mess alone.
God, seeing our plight, did something about our desperate condition. With the most radical of love, Jesus came in human form. Jesus took his own perfect image and was bloodied, marred and punished so that our image could be restored. Jesus is on a mission to renew God's creation. The most radical part is that we didn't do anything to deserve the redemption he brings. The Bible says that even though we were still sinners (Rm. 5:8) and enemies of God (Rm 5:10) Jesus died for us. That is radical love!
This is the paradox of the human life. We have immense worth and value as God's image bearers and yet we live in a desperate and flawed condition due to sin in the world. The beautiful message of the Gospel is that Jesus has come to renew what was broken. God's image bearers can be redeemed from their broken condition.