Yesterday we introduced the theological concept of the Imago Dei, the fact that God has stamped each and every human being with his image/likeness. We looked at the passages in which this term (or some permutation thereof) is used in reference to either Adam and Eve (as the prime ancestors and representatives of the human race) or to the human race in general. The extremely important point I wanted to make is that this doctrine is first and foremost a practical one. The fact that every person I interact with--or even think about--is created in God’s image is supposed to affect how I think about them (which will lead to how I treat them).
Let’s look at the two relevant passages again. First, there’s Genesis 9:6. Right after Noah exited the Ark, the Lord promised that he’d never destroy humanity again by water, and declared the rainbow to be the sign of this promise. But he gave some instructions for Noah and his family and his descendants (which would include all of us):
Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed for in the image of God has God made mankind.
As I talked about in our discussion of Capital Punishment on this blog, this is not a description of what happens when one person kills another. This is a command that the default punishment for purposeful and unlawful homicide is the death penalty. Why? Because in taking the life of a human being, you’re defacing the image of God. If you took a portrait of someone and spat on it and burned it, what would that say about your attitude towards that person? Or to take another example, you get a worse legal punishment for stealing (i.e. unlawfully taking) a Picasso painting or a new BMW vs. taking a pack of gum. The value of what you unlawfully take determines the punishment you get for unlawfully taking it.
But as the Lord Jesus made clear, it’s not enough just to refrain from physical murder. God’s not satisfied if I’ve never taken up a gun or a knife or a club against someone. The main thing for him is attitude which will lead to actions. And it’s not enough to refrain from hatred. We have to positively act upon the fact that the person in front of me is made in the likeness of my Creator/Savior. The converse of the portait example above holds: How I treat a picture (or image) reveals and expresses my feelings towards the person that that picture represents.
If this point wasn’t clear from Genesis and the words of Jesus himself, then James adds to it. He condemns his listeners for A) Praising God and B) “cursing” people who’ve been made in God’s likeness. To me this is not just referring to swearing at them. I’d include slandering them or speaking of/to them in a demeaning way. When I’m speaking about/to someone, does my speech reveal the fact that this person is a reflection of my Savior God? Do I speak degradingly about them? Do I speak of them as if they’re less than human? Do I mock them? Or do I speak the truth in love about/to them?
Well, what if they’re doing something worthy of condemnation? What if they’re doing something worthy of mockery?
We’ll get to that in the next post, and since this is a political blog, we’re going to delve a little more into politics next time. But in the meantime, we need to (figuratively) tattoo this on our foreheads: The way I treat someone and talk about someone—the very thoughts I think about them--must reflect the fact that they bear the likeness of my Savior. How I think about and treat them is a reflection of how much I love him.