In Whose Image Are You?
Greetings Narrow Gate,
I want to speak today on racism. I found an elegant yet simple article by Max Lucado online. If you haven't read any of his writings you should. I promise you'll enjoy them and learn from them. I will take his premise from OT scripture and fill in around the edges. Again, it is a simple yet powerful message from God's Word.
We cite many reasons for racism in the world: ignorance, fear, anger, bigotry, hate and other words with negative connotations. Maybe the reason for the existence of racism is a combination of all of these things. But maybe the reason is also this, damaged people want to make themselves feel better about themselves by putting down other people. By insulting, hurting and killing other people, some people actually feel better about themselves, as sick as this sounds.
Now, most of us would agree that we all have issues, but not necessarily to this extent. Prejudice and judging others is an ancient sin. For that reason, God gave us this ancient solution. Genesis 1:26,
Embedded in these words is the most wonderful of promises: God made us to reflect his image.
No one is a god except in his or her own delusions. None of us is perfect. In fact I would say we are all broken, products of the broken world that we live in. However, all of us, each one of us, carries some of the communicable attributes of God. Wisdom. Grace. Kindness. Love. Each one of us has a different mix of these attributes. Some may have more, some of us less. But we all have some of these attributes. None of us have no attributes from God. This is because we are made in his image. If we are born on this earth, we are born in the image of God.
Sin has distorted this image. Yet it has not destroyed this image. Our moral purity has been tainted. Our intellect is polluted by foolish ideas and motives. We have fallen prey to the elixir of self-promotion rather than God-promotion. Therefore the image of God in some of us is difficult to discern. But this does not mean that God has rescinded or altered his plan. No matter where we are on the scale of brokenness, we are each still a part of God's plan. He continues to create people in his image to bear his likeness and reflect his glory.
Modern self-help and TV psychology tells us to look inside ourselves to find our value. Marketers spend millions in advertising making us think that our value is in how good we look or how much cool stuff we own. Even some religious leaders take part in this deception by rating your goodness based on church attendance, self-discipline or spirituality.
There is no catch to the following fact. God loves each one of us. Even at our most sinful, literally our ugliest, God loves us all. We are lovable because God made us in his image. We are all lovable. Period. Hear this!
Here comes the key to this simple message. We will only be satisfied (content, comfortable with ourselves) when we engage in our personal role as an image-bearer of God. David spoke of this satisfaction in Psalm 17:15,
"And I--in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness."
Until we do this, we will continue to reflect the brokenness of the world and not the loving nature of our God. We will continue to hurt each other. How much sadness would evaporate if every person simply chose to believe this: I was made for God's glory and made in his image.
Please allow this truth to pierce your heart. You were known by God before you were conceived by your parents. You were loved in heaven before you were known on earth. You are not an accident, some random fluke of genetics or evolution. You are not defined by how much you weigh, the followers you have, the car you drive nor the skin color you have.
You are made in God's image. Purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. To God, you are worth dying for. Just as you are now, this very minute. Let this truth sink into your heart and define the way that you see yourself.
Then, allow this truth to define the way you see others. Every person you see was created by God to bear his image and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This means that all people deserve to be seen for who they are: image-bearers of God.
Why does God love you with an everlasting love? It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with whose you are.
Parents and grandparents understand this concept. Before my son and daughters were born I loved them. Before I saw any of my children, I loved them.
Why? Because they carry some of me. A small part, but a part of me, nonetheless. They are a part of me.
Why does God love you with an everlasting love? It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with whose you are. You are his. You are a part of God. This is all according to God's plan.
Jesus on the night he was betrayed prayed this, John 17:11, 20-23,
"Holy Father, keep the men and women you gave me by your power that they may be one, as we are one....I am not praying for only these (people) but for all those who will believe in me through their message that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, that the world may believe that you did send me. I have given them the honor that you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one--I in them and you in me..."
that they may be one, as we are one--I in them and you in me
Are you one with the Father? Are you his? You were created just for this purpose. When we are an image-bearer of God we are all one. What we look like no longer matters. Skin color, hair, weight does not matter. Because we all bear the resemblance of God. This is the way it will be. He made us, it's just that simple. It's God's plan and he doesn't make any mistakes.
The people of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, SC understood this. In June of 2015, a 21 year old white male entered their Bible study. After a few minutes of listening he proceeded to murder in cold blood nine children of God. But this young man didn't see them as children of God. He was only concerned with the color of their skin. But the community of this church still forgave the murderer. They understood whose they are. That is a church of image-bearers of God.
We can't wish racism away. We can't hate racism away. Racism fueled by hate as evidenced by the police officers of Minneapolis and the shooter in Charleston is deeply rooted in their souls. This hate is like pornography, deeply tied to self gratification and incredibly addicting. It is a stronghold of the Evil One and must be broken down by constant prayer and fasting.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6,
"The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men and women erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ."
The congregation and community at the EAME Church in Charleston understood this. Their forgiveness broke down the stronghold of evil that the shooter was hoping to tap into, to glorify, justify and promote his sick belief.
"Well, all we can do is pray?" I hear you asking. There is one more thing. I know this person. His name is Jesus. He is a healer. Do you know of him? Maybe you have heard of him. 1 Peter 2:21-25,
"For Christ suffered for you and left you a personal example, and wants you to follow in his steps (think hard about this). He was guilty of no sin nor of the slightest prevarication. Yet when he was insulted he offered no insult in return. When he suffered he made no threats of revenge. He simply committed his cause to the one ( and only) who judges fairly. And he personally bore our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good. It was the suffering that he bore which has healed you. You had wandered away like so many other sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls."
I was broken once. In so many different ways I was broken. But someone introduced me to the healer, Jesus Christ. Yes, there is something else we can do besides pray and fast. Find a broken person and introduce them to the healer.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC