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Vicarious Humanity: By His Birth We Are Healed
Photo illustration by Doug Fleener

The central character of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Little Mermaid dreams of giving up her life in the sea to find love on dry land. The agony she undergoes exchanging her tail for a fully human form is poignant. It makes one wonder what it would be like to become another sort of thing, something we've desperately wanted to become.

Even before the Fall, human beings longed for dramatic change. In Genesis we see that Eve longed to be like God, to share in his very wisdom and goodness (Gen. 3:5-6). That longing was not the problem, since we see that in Christ, we are destined to "participate in the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Rather, the problem was that Eve grasped at God's wisdom and goodness instead of waiting and trusting God to fulfill her God-given longing. After the Fall, that longing is now utterly frustrated in human beings. This is one gracious reason God has given us the moral law—to show (a) that it truly is our destiny to live godly lives as outlined in the law, and (b) that it is now impossible to live in accordance with God's law without divine grace.

Thus we find ourselves in a desperate situation. We long to know and experience truth, beauty, and love in perfect fulfillment—the very wisdom and goodness of God. This yearning is what drives human beings relentlessly to create, to write, to ponder, and to love. But history and our everyday experience show we fall so far short of this goal as to lead us to despair; we are, as Paul put it, in a "wretched" situation, destined to live and die in futility (Rom. 7:24).

In the midst of our desperate situation, the gospel announces some startling news: In Christ, God has done that which is necessary ...

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Vicarious Humanity: By His Birth We Are Healed
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March 2012

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