This is the first in a series of posts sketching some of the most important truths guiding this website’s editorial direction.
We’re made in God’s image.
That may be a familiar phrase to a lot of Christians in the United States, but really, it’s kind of a weird concept to get your head around today.
In the ancient near east, the image of a god was a big deal. Gods’ images were usually carved out of wood, stone or some kind of precious metal. They were spoken of reverently, honored with constant maintenance and flattered with frequent gifts. Every god had an image or even multiple images for his followers to honor and revere—except the god of the Bible.
Instead of settling for an image carved from an inert lump, God created humanity to be his image—an entire dynamic, living, breathing race of beings. Humanity is, as J. Richard Middleton put it in The Liberating Image, meant to serve as “a localized, visible, corporeal representation of the divine.” And God commanded his people to honor that representation.
After the first generation of humans to live outside of paradise discovers murder, God’s rationale against it is rooted in the fact that his image is too important to ever be dishonored:
He who sheds human blood
by human hands his blood shall be shed,
for in the image of God
He made humankind
God imprinted his image on humans before the fall, but even after the fall, even after humans were exiled from God’s presence, the power and the authority of his image is not diminished. Indeed, as the story of humanity continued to unfold, his image on us only became more important. When Jesus came to embody and fulfill God’s word and take God’s mission of salvation and redemption global, he took the commandment from Genesis 9 even further:
You have heard it was said to the ancients: You shall not murder. He who murders shall be liable to judgment. I say to you that any man who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; and he who says to his brother, fool, shall be liable…
We are living in an age of hyper-partisanism. In this age, in this place, one of the most distinctive stances Christians can take for the gospel in the political arena is to declare that, to us, God is so great and his image is so important that we’re not going to belittle or insult it—even when it’s found on people we disagree with.
The gospel compels us to disagree with our political opponents without dehumanizing them. This is no easy feat when so much of the political conversation we read online or see on TV or hear on the radio seems dedicated to tearing down anyone who belongs to one camp or another. Every day, politicians, pundits and political hit men toss around words even harsher than "fool." Words like, “fascist.” “Terrorist.” “Racist.” “Traitor.” But when was the last time you looked at someone who disagrees with you and called them, “brother?” Have you forgotten how to disagree with someone without resorting to language that tears them down? Is it even possible to remember that the political figures whose policies you loathe are dynamic, living, breathing images of God?
The writers who are about to start sharing their experiences with you on this blog don’t have this entirely figured out. Neither do their editors. We’ve all sinned. We all fall short of commands that Jesus gives us. But we’re here on this site because we want to help one another to keep our eyes fixed on Christ as we walk through our political lives. We hope that you’ll join us, and I can’t think of a better way for us to start together than with prayer:
Father, you knit together each of us—man and woman, Jew and Greek, Democrat and Republican—and stamped us with your image as a testament to your glory. We often have a hard time remembering to honor that. We insult people who don’t look or think or vote like us and we tell ourselves that they are somehow beyond the scope of your kingdom. Give your church in this country a deeper reverence for your image wherever it is found. Teach those of us who are engaged with the civic process to honor your image by treating our political opponents with dignity and respect. We pray these things not for our own security, but for the glory of your Son, whose name we carry and in whose name we pray. Amen.
Rick Barry is managing editor of The Body Politic. He has worked on campaigns for local, state and federal office, is a former writer and editor for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and currently oversees communications for the Grace DC church network in Washington, DC.