You look like someone I know

8 03 2012

There seems to be a breakdown in how people treat each other.  In politics it gets downright ugly.  Once a person is seen as being on the other side of the issue, there are no limits to how much we can bash them.  The attacks are often personal and frankly mean.  Meanwhile, the images portrayed as normal make people worry about how they look.  The idea of beauty has become an airbrushed fantasy.  It is heartbreaking.  Does Christian theology have a response to this?  I believe it has a very powerful response.

First, you may be surprised that I used the word theology.  However, theology is why we do the things we do.  Theology is simply how we understand God.  So if your theological view is there is no God you will live your life accordingly.  If you view God as judgmental waiting to punish you then that will shape how you live.  Some believe God is present in everything…the bottom line is how we understand God and the things of God ripple into all the other areas of our life either consciously or unconsciously.

What is the Christian theology on self-image and how we treat others?  You may have heard the term Imago Dei.  It means the image of God.  Christians believe we are made in God’s image.  This has huge repercussions.

First, we have value and worth regardless of any external factor.  Society may or may not find you attractive.  However, you have inherent attractiveness because of whose image you are made in.  Many would agree that we need to have an internal sense of value and worth.  However, I would argue that value needs to be anchored in something larger than ourselves.  If we don’t anchor it the result is a tendency to earn our worth or look for worth in other people.  If I try and earn my worth I will never feel I have arrived.  I will burn myself out.  If our worth comes from another person we set ourselves up.  All of us are human.  We make mistakes and don’t always appreciate the people around us.  The Christian view is to anchor our value and worth in God.  God does not need our actions (one of the benefits of being God) and is able to be a steady rock in the midst of our human relationships.

Second, we are an image of God and not God.  This puts boundaries on me.  I need to be respectful and acknowledge there is one who is greater than me.  When I disrespect another person, I am not showing respect for the one whose image that person carries.  This means I see everyone has having value and worth not because of what they do even if they have hurt me or because of who they are.  I show them value and worth because they are made in the image of God.

Imagine if we treated everyone with respect and dignity.  Yes, even the person who we do not like or the person who has hurt us.  At the extreme we see this in how we treat prisoners.  Even though they may have done horrible things, we insure they are treated with dignity.  To do anything else opens the door for interpretation for how others are treated.  (I hope you can see the idea of people deciding to treat people differently because of the color of their skin or their political views.)  This takes Jesus commandments to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love our enemies to a whole new level.

If I see I have value and worth because I am made in the image of God then I will have self-esteem.  If I see you have value and worth because you are made in the image of God then I will treat you with dignity and respect.  That should happen regardless if I agree with you, if you look a certain way or if you do something I think is wrong.

Confession as a Christian leader:  The Church has not always gotten this right.  The Church is made up of humans who sin.  This only reinforces my point about being anchored in God and not other people.  However, the Church’s theology is clear.  We need to allow this theology to ripple into the other areas of our lives.  You are in the image of God and so is every other person you encounter.  I pledge to act like it.  Will you?


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