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Why limits are good

BOOKS | Human beings are creatures, not machines

Kelly Kapic Tad Evearitt

Why limits are good
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What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “You’re only human”? Christian scholar and author Kelly Kapic would like people to respond with a hearty affirmation. Yet, even for most Christians, the limits of our humanity seem like a defect, a consequence of Adam’s dalliance with the devil, and something to be overcome.

Kapic says we have a spiritual and theological problem. It’s that we don’t understand a concept he would like to become a household term once again among God’s people: finitude. It’s the state of being “finite” or limited. In other words, it is accepting the good reality that we are not God.

He writes: “In area after area, we sense our shortcomings, our longings to be more, to do more, and yet we run smack dab into our limits. So how should we respond to this guilt and the endless needs and demands?” This is the thesis for the rest of Kapic’s new book, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News.

This work, written in elegant, accessible prose, will both convict and delight. Readers who tend to take on more responsibilities into ever-expanding schedules will learn how to say no. Yet they will also find rest in the knowledge that the end of their physical bandwidth is not a sign of sin, but a reminder that they are indeed not machines but creatures.

You’re Only Human brings fresh reflection on the ever-growing productivity industry, which at its best helps us steward our limited resources and at its worst can treat the human body like a cyborg that only needs to be tweaked and tuned to increase output. Kapic also gently rebukes the modern Church and the ways in which our discipleship models often make demands that ­people just can’t meet.

As a leader, this book has made me reflect not only on my own limits but on the limits of those I lead. Am I treating my students, my kids, my wife, my staff as productivity bots or as finite image-bearers? The concept of finitude has implications for all of our human relationships, for workplace models, and for campus cultures.

Perhaps the most important chapters are those that focus on human dependency as a feature and not a bug of our creation. We were not made to live in isolation, to be so self-reliant that we don’t need the gifts and graces of those God has sovereignly put in our midst. It is precisely because we are weak, because we are creatures, that we need a village to properly follow Christ. To borrow from his theme in Chapter 9, Christians are to love the whole body, to appreciate our deep need for places where our limits and the strengths of others meet.

In area after area, we sense our shortcomings, our longings to be more, to do more, and yet we run smack dab into our limits.

But You’re Only Human is not merely a critique; it also offers some helpful, practical ways in which Christians can embrace our finitude. Kapic offers a pattern of four habits or postures: rhythm, vulnerability, gratitude, and rest. What’s especially refreshing is he resists the urge to offer a one-size-fits-all template for how these rhythms work out for people who, by their unique and God-given design, share different limits.

In the Garden, the human descent into sin began by resisting creaturely limits and instead listening to the lie that we can “be like God.” But humans were never meant to bear this weight. In Psalm 103, King David wrote of God, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.”

God knows our limits. The goal of You’re Only Human is to make sure we do too.

—Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book is Agents of Grace. He is also a bestselling author of several other books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words and the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.


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