This post is inspired by a couple of my current classes and a conversation with my wonderful sister. I decided to do a split post for this; the first half you have here today; look for the second half tomorrow.
The issue is the way people are treated by other people, and the way human beings treat their fellow men and women (hereafter, unless otherwise specified, “men” is a general term for humans, not intended to denote masculine or feminine) lights a fire in our hearts, a righteous anger and a desire to do something to change it. Is that grammatically or substantially confusing? Let me rephrase: The way people treat people makes us stinking angry. It’s not right. In this first half, we will examine why it’s not right, and in the second half, we will look at some practical application.
Let us start at the beginning (which is, after all, as Fräulein Maria sings in The Sound of Music, is “a very good place to start”). “Then God said, ‘Let us make man IN OUR IMAGE, IN OUR LIKENESS’….So God created man IN HIS OWN IMAGE, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis added). Did you perhaps see any repetitive theme in that passage? Hint: look at the words written in all capital letters. God created man in His image. Therefore, humans are image-bearers of God.
Wow. I don’t know if that hits you, but it hits me smack in the face and makes me pause. Every single person in the world, me included, is a mirror of God. I better watch closely how I treat others, because how I treat them says everything about the state of my relationship with God. If I cannot love people, who bear God’s image, how can I say I love Him, the original?
Humans are the image-bearers of God. God made us, and it was very good, and we lived with Him. Then something happened, and we sinned, and now all of creation (Including us. Oh, yeah, that’s right. I am created, I didn’t make myself.) is in a fallen state, a broken state. As Philip Ryken says in What is the Christian Worldview (a very good book, which shall soon be added to my Recommended Books page), “How far we have we have fallen from the beautiful image of God!…Traces of our original goodness still remain, but now we are horribly corrupted by sin….We have become a glorious ruin. Or, to change the metaphor, God’s reflection in us has become distorted like a face in a carnival mirror.” What once we reflected clearly, now we only reflect in a skewed portrayal. Yet still, despite our messed-up-ness, we are still image bearers of God.
And as such, we have intrinsic value. I am valuable because I carry the image of God. You are valuable for no other reason than the same exact reason I am valuable. That really bad teacher whom you absolutely hate is valuable for exactly the same reason. The same goes for the homeless person on the corner, the orphan in Africa, the movie star on TV, the president (whatever his political party), etc., etc.
EVERY SINGLE PERSON HAS VALUE BECAUSE THEY ARE IMAGE-BEARERS OF GOD.
Not only should that dictate the way we treat other people, but as Christians, we are called to follow Jesus’ example. You may think, “Goodness, that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think? I mean, He actually died, and He let people beat Him, and He gave up everything. That kind of extreme devotion isn’t for the average Christian, it’s for the disciple. I’m not a disciple.” Think again. If you’re a Christian, you’re a disciple. According to dictionary.com, a “disciple” is “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.” If you do not fall under that description, I honestly don’t see how you are actually a Christian (If you disagree, please read the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I think Jesus makes the issue pretty clear).
As a disciple, our task is to emulate our teacher, to do what Jesus did. Our lives should be like a game of “follow the leader”—only it is not a game. It is essential that we be like Christ. In fact, the very word “Christian” means “Christ-like.” While we are alive in this fallen world, we by God’s grace participate in His work of restoring the world to its intended state. We do this by, again, doing what Jesus did.