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Most impactful teaching

I attended Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO.  I graduated with a Master of Divinity with an emphasis in contemporary culture.  Yet, the most impactful teaching I took away with me was the gravity of the imago dei – its meaning and implications.  Imago dei means image of God.   Every human person is made in the image of God or better every human person is an imago dei bearer.  The abled and disabled person is made in God’s image; the poor and middle-class person is made in God’s image; the educated and illiterate is stamped with the imago dei; Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans are made in the image of God; the embryo in utero and those who are on life support are made in God’s image; Asian-Americans, Asians, Europeans, Africans, African Americans, Bosnians, Iranians, the Taliban, Hispanics, etc. all are made in the image of God.  Police officers, lawyers, engineers, rappers, Bonnie and Clyde, gang bangers, pimps, janitors, trash collectors, baristas, city dwellers, suburbanites, kids, husbands, wives, siblings, CEOs, etc. are all made in God’s image. Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, tarot card readers, psychics, prisoners, orphans, foreigners; the blind, the mute, AIDS sufferers, etc. are all made in God’s image.  Heterosexual, homosexuals, transgender, metrosexual, etc. – are all imago dei bearers. Being fashioned in the image of God is what distinguishes mankind from animals.

Implications

Since every human person is made in God’s image or is an imago dei bearer, every person named above is to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.  Every human person comes in different hues, different shapes, sizes, heights, with different abilities and idiosyncrasies – but every person is an imago dei reflector. Every human life is sacred from ‘womb to tomb.’ Every human life has inestimable value and worth. And this worth and value is inherent.  Persons do not earn their value and worth; it is rather inherent – it’s innate. Every person was created for a purpose; to contribute in some way to our society and world.

Social justice begins with the imago dei.  Fighting injustices begins with the imago dei.   Seeking to end sex-trafficking, for example, finds its basis in the imago dei. Seeking to reform all human institutions begins with the imago dei. Working so that all people have access to affordable health care, affordable housing, a good education, healthy food, etc. – all begins here with the imago dei. The authors of the Declaration of Independence must have had this imago dei teaching in mind when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. risked his life and the lives of his family because he was convinced that blacks as well as whites and all people are made in God’s image.

Personally, this is why I weep when ever a person dies senselessly; when a human person is stereotyped; when a person is criminalized because of his skin color (or when a person is a “symbolic assailant” as one colleague puts it); when a person is told “you will never amount to anything’; when a little kid is abused by mom or dad; when a boss withholds a promotion to a person because of his race. I grieve over the death of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos and countless others whose life was taken from them.

Imagine with me: what would our world, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our families, our homes look like if we regarded each person we met or interacted with as someone of inestimable worth and value? Christians have no choice in this regard! Churches have no option but to teach on the imago dei and the church has no option but to live out the implications of this teaching.  Sure we see color and other features when we ‘see’ another human being; may we see first the person’s worth and value, then their (you fill in the blank). Or, may we see ‘the other’ with the ‘Eyes of Our Heart’ as this song from the film, Radio, suggests:

Close your eyes, the physical can be so blind
In my eyes, the innocent can be so wise
It’s not about black or white, this is wrong or right
Can you take a stranger and treat him like your brother?

Love don’t start with the eyes, it starts with the heart
Look deep down inside, in all that you have a chance
To make a choice, to make a change
So make the choice to look with the eyes of your heart

Close your eyes, the light of love will lead the way
In the eyes of a child, we’re all the same
If we’re all God’s children, the logic is so simple
The one you call stranger is really your brother

Love don’t start with the eyes, it starts with the heart, yeah
Look deep down inside, in all that you have a chance
To make a choice, to make a change
So make the choice to look with the eyes of your heart

No, I don’t mean to preach, some may say that it’s unrealistic
‘Cause none of us is perfect, but the way that I say it
What do you just try to see with different eyes
Could you see that what is done to you is done to me?
We want humanity, yeah

Oh, love don’t start with the eyes, it starts with the heart
Look deep down inside, in all that you have a chance
To make a choice, to make a change
So make the choice to look with the eyes of

Love don’t start with the eyes, it starts with the heart
Look deep down inside you have the chance
To make a choice, to make a change
So take the chance

To make a choice, to make a change
So make the choice to look with the eyes of your heart

I am so indebted to Professor Jerram Barrs, who taught me this ‘way of seeing’ my brother and sister. Thank you brother.

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One Comment

  1. So good Luke! Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!


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