One of the first questions Morrie asks Mitch during their last course together is, “Are you trying to be as human as you can be?” For Morrie, to be fully human was a necessity in life. In order to be fully human, one had to relate well both with oneself and with others. He says, “For me, living means I can be responsive to the other person. It means I can show my emotions and my feelings.” The most fully human person who has ever lived is Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Man. He lived the most fully human life in our place, so that we could partake in the divine life and become more truly human (2 Pet. 1.4).
Morrie also believed in the common humanness of all people. He saw how bad we could become, as well as our potential for good. He says, “Look, no matter where you live, the biggest defect we human beings have is our shortsightedness. We don’t see what we could be. We should be looking at our potential, stretching ourselves into everything we can become.” Morrie’s description of the human race is right on. We are all shortsighted, with the inability to see our full potential. However, his diagnosis of human beings’ biggest defect falls far short of the real problem. We cannot see what we are meant to be, because of the sinful nature we were born into through Adam, our first forefather (Rom. 5.12). And, once we have eyes to see our full potential, what we can become is impossible apart from our Creator and Redeemer (Jn 1.3; 15.5).
Another problem, Morrie adds, “is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are.” Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own. We all have the same beginning—birth—and we all have the same end—death. So how different can we be?” Morrie’s eagerness to love across relative boundaries is exemplary. Indeed, the apostle Paul would agree that we are “one big human family in this world,” since we are “God’s offspring” (Acts 17.29). However, as do other biblical authors, Paul draws a dividing line between two kinds of people throughout redemptive history—the righteous and the wicked. Yes, we all share a common humanness in two ways: 1) We are all made in the image of God (Gen. 1.27); 2) We are all born into sin (Ps. 51.5). The Gospel of Jesus should motivate us toward loving our fellow image-bearers across all sorts of perceived boundaries. Morrie gets it deeply right when he says, “In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right? But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.” He did not express it in this way, but one of the reasons Jesus calls us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22.39), is because we need each other. God made us for himself, as well as for each other.