It seems to me that there is a common problem that I have to deal with on a regular basis. It comes down to a lack of respect for our fellow man. I understand that in this world we have class wars, and we have racism, and we have a variety of other ways to delineate the differences between various groups of people. But it seems to me that the basic problem comes down to the same thing. People have no respect for their fellow man.
Maybe this is related to an education system that says all people are animals. Maybe it is people who mistreat children and are allowed to get away with it. Maybe it is the political and social rhetoric that goes along with every political campaign. Maybe it’s the freedom provided by the internet and the lack of face to face communications. Maybe these are all symptoms of a greater problem.
Back in Genesis 1:26-27 we are told:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.(ESV)
Here God makes one man, and from him all peoples of the earth are descended. There is no concept of race, like we have in the modern times, anywhere in the Bible. Instead the picture is of all humanity sharing in the image of God. Age, race, wealth, profession, none of that matters. We can see this when Jesus goes and hangs out with Pharisees, fishermen, gentiles, Samaritans, the blind, the demon possessed, and even tax collectors.
Jesus knew that all men were created in the image of God, which is why, when asked about paying taxes to Caesar, he holds up a coin and asks about the image on it. The image on the coin was Caesar’s, so they should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:15-22). In the context of Genesis 1, this means that Jesus was telling them to give themselves to God, for they were the bearers of God’s image!
This is not to say that we are all good about bearing God’s image. Indeed, each of us stumble in many ways. This is exemplified throughout the Bible. Adam ate the fruit he was told not to eat. Abraham lied to kings about his relationship with Sarah. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Paul persecuted the church. Each of these people were faulty mirrors and reflected the image of God poorly at times. Yet Abraham was called the friend of God. David was a man after God’s own heart. Paul was an apostle who received visions of Jesus. We can take comfort in knowing that we are not the first to fail, rather we are merely another in a long list.
This is part of what makes Jesus so different. Unlike everyone before him or after him, he was able to truly show the image of God. Jesus is able to say, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also (John 14:7).” He continues on to say that seeing him is the same as seeing the Father. Jesus was the image of God in a way that no one else could be, because Jesus is God made flesh.
But how does that help us? It is this: we can clothe ourselves with Jesus. Galatians 3:27 reminds us that “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is telling us that when God looks at us, if we are in Christ Jesus, the Father sees the perfect image given by his perfect son, and not the tarnished mirror that we really are.
This promise is for everyone, as Peter told the populace on the day of Pentecost:
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)
Everyone who hears these words is welcome to share in the perfection that is in Jesus. There is again no distinction based on anything other than the fact that they were people. In fact, there were pains taken by God that day to make certain that each of the people there could hear the message in their own language.
Those of us who have put on Christ have the obligation to try to live a life that is pleasing to him. This means that we also need to remember that all people everywhere at all times are made in the image of God and deserve respect and consideration. Even when we don’t feel like it. Especially when we don’t feel like it. God desires that all people should come to him, and give to God what is God’s. He has given the Way. If we are to be like him, there is no one we should bring down, but we should try to bring them all to God.