People from modern western culture can find themselves defined as the sum of what they can do.
This can have devastating effects on perceptions of those who are not able to be actively productive.
Aged people, for instance, feel profoundly diminished if their capacities fail.
Michael Jensen reminds us that in God’s Kingdom there are no self-made people, no people whose identity in grounded in what they can or cannot do.
The modern world has made human actions the basic compositional unit of the human self. We moderns understand ourselves primarily as acting subjects—as people who do things.
The damaging consequences of this idolization of the acting self are numerous: from an instrumentality in human relationships (they are only good insofar as they provide me with what I need in order to bolster my C.V.), to a removal of the dignity of those who cannot act, or who are limited in their ability to act (the disabled and the elderly in particular). If it is by action that we establish ourselves as true men and women, then what are we to think of those whose ability to act is limited? Can a person who cannot act be truly good, if they cannot express their virtues in action?
The gospel of the crucified Christ actually overthrows that path to self-realization! Just as thinking that we are justified by our works is a terrible proud mistake, so is thinking we are most truly expressing and finding ourselves in our human achievements.
The great Reformation doctrine sola fide or ‘justification by faith alone’ explains that it is God who judges, declares, and determines; it is he who calls human beings to themselves. It is he who even gives them to themselves. There cannot be self-made people, not really. The extremity of the cross—that the Son of God would need to suffer so—shows us just what proud failures we are in the business of making ourselves.
Read the whole post at Crossway.