Sunday, March 18, 2007

Image is Everything

“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”

What an extraordinary idea – the Creator of the universe choosing to create every single man; every single woman on the planet in his own image.

Once when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

As I have pondered these words over and over again, I am continually intrigued with the fact that Jesus did not separate the two. The man asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” It seems to me that Jesus could have stopped after saying, “Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.” But he didn’t. He felt the need to take it to the next level. And not only did he take it to the next level, but he actually said that the second commandment was like the first.

It’s almost as if in the eyes of Jesus, you can’t have one without the other.

It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, you don’t really love God if you don’t love people.

I feel that God has really been stirring something deep within me in this area of loving others over the last year or so. I seem to be a pretty slow learner, so I can’t say that I’ve got it yet, but I do believe that I’m on my way.

For so many years I have tried so desperately to love people. I have read the words of Jesus – “love your neighbor” – and I have tried to do this very thing. At times I have been successful. At other times – I have not.

Only recently however, have I really begun to understand why Jesus tells us to love our neighbors – to love others (other than the obvious reason that God just loves people). As the great poet wrote thousands of years ago, “God created man in his own image.” We are created in the image of the Creator. The King of the universe has chosen to make us in his very own image. That means that the guy at the gas station pumping gas next to me is created in the image of the same God as I am. That means that the girl waiting on us at Houston’s restaurant is created in the image of the same God as we are. That means that the SUV driving next to you down Interstate 10 has an entire family in it who are created in the image of the same God as you are. These people are our neighbors. It’s easy to see. We live next to them. We eat next to them. We shop at the same stores as they do.

And, although this is true – it is really much larger in scope. Because it also means that the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people who are being driven from their homes and slaughtered in Darfur are created in the image. It means that the thousands of children in Africa who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus are created in the image. It means that those who are being sold into slavery and prostitution around this world are created in the image.

I have never really been much of a global thinker. I have always taken the mindset that I just need to focus my time, energy and attention on those who are close to me. I know that there are people all around this world going through there own trials, but honestly I never thought that it really affected me because I am so far removed.

Over the last couple of weeks however, I have been incredibly stirred by reports of slave trade, sex trafficking, the Darfur genocide, AIDS in Africa, extreme poverty and more.

I have come to the conclusion that these people and these situations should concern me, because they certainly concern God. I have come to realize that all people are created in the image of God. All people are created in the image of my God. All people are created in the image of the same God that I am created in. We live on a planet that is full of people with different color skin, different education, different language, different socio-economic status, different cultures…same image.

The one thing that the entire global village has in common is that we all bear the image of the Creator who formed us.

When there is an atrocity against any human being, it is an atrocity against all humankind. It is an atrocity against God himself. Whether a young 16 year old boy is gunned downed in the streets of hurricane ravished New Orleans or a woman is raped and beaten along the borders of the Sudan – these are sins against humankind – sins against God. As part of the global village, these acts affect me. They affect you. They affect all of humanity because we are all in this thing together.

Rob Bell* writes, “When a human being is mistreated, objectified, or neglected, when they are treated as less than human, these actions are actions against God. Because how you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.”

We belong to a community which extends far beyond state or continental lines. We belong to the global village. We are called to love. Not just those in our home or neighborhood. Not just those in our city or state. Not just those in our country. But we are called to love – all people. We are commanded by God to love our neighbors because – there is inside of every single person on this planet – an image – the image – the image of our God.

It is not until we learn to love the creation that we can truly say that we love the Creator.

*This quote was taken from the first chapter in Rob Bell’s second book, Sex God. If you have not had a chance to sit down with this book, I strongly encourage you to do so. This book certainly ranks in my top 10.


fuel52 said...

Yeah, this is a tough that I'll be working on for a very long time. I believe God wants this one HIGH on our list, like next to breathing. And one of the toughest to master.

Becky said...

Thank you Brian for what you have written about in your last 5 blogs. It amazes me that what you have written here is exactly what has been on my heart and mind lately.

curia_regis said...

Matthew doesn't even separate the two in Matt 22, he includes them both in the same commandment. But I 100% agree.

It's a lot "easier" to be a Christian when it's just about "you and your relationship with God". No need to go to church or interact with people...when it's just about you and God, it's 1-2-3 simple. But when your Christianity includes you having to interact with people, and when it's as much about other people as it is about gets more difficult.

Imagine that God cares as much about you treating people well as he does about you treating HIM well (the whole concept of being the image of God). It's crazy just to think about...

Going over the Latter Prophets, I was thinking about both Jonah and Habakkuk in the sense of God using the wicked to judge his people. A very staggering concept, but something I was thinking about today, do you think it's possible that God gets pleasure when someone who doesn't know him treats their fellow man well? If an agnostic helps out his neighbor with his rent because his neighbor is a little short this month, does it matter that the agnostic isn't doing it to please God? Is it possible?

I'd say it's probable. We don't have to limit it to agnosticism, we could include athiesm, hinduism, methodist, whatever, it doesn't matter. If God is pleased when Christians respect God's image (BECAUSE WE'RE FREAKIN TOLD TO DO IT, it's a COMMANDMENT, not a SUGGESTION), then how much more is he pleased when one of those out there that ISN'T his, one that isn't SUPPOSED to know what the right thing is, and do it...this is someone who is created in his image, but maynot believe in him...yet still performs the 2nd 1/2 of the "greatest commandment".

We too often, I think focus on the 1st 1/2 and just say, "well, I love God..." but is that enough. Just like most Christians would say that not loving God but loving your neighbor wouldn't please God...what makes us think that following just *that* half of the commandment makes everything okay?