When we think about ourselves and our fellow human beings, we often think of how much we have yet to achieve, not just physically or as a species, but spiritually and morally as individuals.
We know that we are spiritually incomplete, and we are often at a loss as to what our next steps should be to advance ourselves.
We innately know that we can and should be better than we are. We also know that human beings have great potential within us.
However, Christian preachers, especially Evangelical ones, tend to view the very words "human potential" as anti-religious language.
The "human potential movement," of the past century, which does focus on humanity apart from any religious aspects of our lives, hasn't made this a difficult conclusion to draw.
Christian pastors and theologians have long said that many are trying to reach their full human potential without God in the picture. and they are right to point out the futility of striving without God.
But it can easily, and more positively, be argued that Jesus himself, and the Hebrew Bible that he grew up with and studied as a youth, understood and accepted the fact that human beings had great potential, and explained in great detail how to reach it. In fact, his teachings almost shout the concept that we were created for something better by our Creator.
For example, Jesus says that we are to be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect. And while modern Evangelicals tend to interpret this to mean that we will BE perfected, "one day," in heaven, or when we are "made perfect" by God, apart from any effort of our own, Jesus didn't seem to mean this.
In fact, the preceding paragraph in the Book of Matthew spells out actions that we are to do over and above what others do, when it comes to loving not only those who love us, but our enemies as well.
Luke also record Jesus as saying that we are to be merciful, just as our Father in heaven is merciful. In this very teaching, not only is he saying we are able to be as God is, but he teaches us that God is merciful with those who are trying and seeking to do His will.
We know this because elsewhere, he says we are to forgive 70 times seven times (in other words, endlessly) and that if we expect to be forgiven by God for OUR shortcomings, we must forgive others theirs. (Matt. 6:14-15)
And Jesus demonstrated such radical forgiveness as he hung dying on the cross, forgiving those who had put him there.
In these ways, we begin to reach our full human potential in imitation of Jesus himself. And that is a key to understanding our potential as human beings.
Unlike a regular philosopher or a mere teacher who might have said some good things that were recorded in history, Jesus not only taught, but gave us a living example, of how we are to live in accordance with God's will.
He showed us how a perfect human looks in real life. And then he said, "follow me." And not simply to follow him around to DIA, but to "Go, and do likewise" and even "do greater things than I." And finally, "go into all the world, teaching others to obey my teachings."
We can therefore set the preachers' minds at ease. We will not, and cannot, seek to do God's will and become all God wishes for us to become, apart from God's help and the knowledge of what that Godly path is. And that path was made clear by the life and example of Jesus.
We are born with an amazing potential for goodness, and for greatness. This potential must be recognized as a gift of God, and it is reached by seeking to follow our Creator's plan for our lives.
To do this, we need only follow the teachings of the one whom God chose for us as a perfect example - someone who pleased God with all he did, and in doing so, achieved his full potential as a human being. We may be assured by his life and words that we may do the same.