I've been concerned lately about the way we treat our fellow human beings. We could analyze this culturally or historically. But today, I'm specifically thinking of this as a Christian, about how those who claim the name of Christ treat their fellow human beings.
I believe that one of the fundamental principles of the Christian faith is that human beings - both men and women - are created in the image of God. We read of creation being God's handiwork and declaring his glory, yes. But it is only us who are made in his image. We, in some astonishing way, reflect more of what God is like than the most colorful sunset, the richest landscape, the most intricate flora and fauna. Out of all of this, out of all of the beauty of creation, we are the created thing that bears his likeness.
This bestows an inherent dignity and glory to each human being. It (should) prohibit us from denigrating and dehumanizing each other. It (should) cause us to seek the flourishing and well being of every person on this planet, regardless of the language they speak, the color of their skin, their religion, their political views, their abilities, their lifestyle, because deeper than all of these things is the basic, dignifying image of God stamped on their being.
When we see poverty, we should grieve, for these are humans made in God's image. When we see bloodshed and violence - in any corner of the globe - we should grieve, for these are humans made in God's image. When we see evil, we should grieve both for the victim and the perpetrator, for these are humans made in God's image.
When we can put people into a category of "other," people we can hate or slander or vilify or overlook, we have forgotten. When we think we have found someone who is no longer worthy of our compassion or of grace, we have forgotten. When we are no longer disturbed by lives lost, by people suffering, by exploitation and displacement and abuse, when we can claim that a particular group of people "deserved" what was coming to them (or, God forbid, rejoice in their pain), we have forgotten.
We have forgotten the image of God stamped on each human being who breathes. We have forgotten that Jesus has called us to love - our neighbor, the stranger, even those we consider our enemy. C.S. Lewis would say we've forgotten that "your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses."
And we forget so often. So often we fall short in this, through our actions and inactions, through our words and attitudes, through overt and subtle means. It’s something I have to continually call myself back to. Our denial of the image of God in our fellow humans calls us to repentance. It draws us back to our desperate need of grace. It brings us to God, begging for his vision and his love for the world.
I will leave you with some famous words from C.S. Lewis:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory