I am in the home stretch of my sabbatical, and have been taking time for the last week or so to reflect on the learning, and all that God has done in my life during this time. At the same time, for the last two weeks I have the news has been dominated by the events that occurred in Charlottesville, VA. And I have had numerous conversations with friends and family all wondered, what happened? How can people be filled with such hate that leads them to harm and even kill others? Let me be clear this is a complex issue, and I make no effort in my post to try and solve or even suggest I am trying to solve those complexities, but instead share the place or two in my learning over sabbatical where these intersect.
Let’s head back to the beginning of scripture.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.””
Genesis 1:26 ESV
This summer as I have been reflecting on Spiritual formation, I began with this passage. Each one of us is made in the image of God. God breaks from His rhythm of creation to make a special being, humans, who will be made in His image unlike any other part of creation. Humans are God’s people, created uniquely in his image. And this is so crucial for a conversation about the hate seen in Charlottesville.
I know, because I have felt hate before. I know the awful feeling it is, and creates inside of us. And out of hate and anger we say and do things to others we would not usually do, and it gets back to this passage. If you stopped me and asked, how can you act that way towards X person? If I get really honest, it’s because I have convinced myself in that moment that this passage does not apply to everyone. Or at best I set this passage aside for a moment, and let my emotions take over, as I vent them at people around me. And this is one part of what drove the anger and hatred in Charlottesville. The white supremacist, Neo-nazi, alt-right believe that only certain people are “imago dei,” made in the image of God, and those people are those who look, act, and life just like they do. They have an equally clear belief about those who are not imago dei. We as humans are great manipulators, especially with ourselves, and so we convince ourselves, that those who are not imago dei, don’t need to be treated the same. We can speak down to them, ignore them, and do unspeakable things we would never consider doing to those who are imago dei.
You see this kind of negative behavior far to often in the speech of our president, particularly his tweets. There are two groups that he tweets about: those he likes (because they agreed with him 100%) and are to be treated well; and the rest, who are not imago dei, and therefore can be spoken at with language, I would be embarrassed for my children to hear, much less see spoken to another human being.
Don’t worry I am only kind of singling our president out, because this type of language is far to common of many people on social media of all kinds. Instead I am writing because, it is the moments of the last two weeks that have made me say, ENOUGH, and feel the need to be far more clear on “political” issues than I typically am. To say each human being is imago dei is not poltical, does not find roots in leftism or rightism, but the scriptures.
As a Christian you and I have a clear place that to respond in moments like this. We are imago dei. The Neo-nazi in Virginia are imago dei, the president is imago dei, the counter protests in Charlottesville are imago dei. As Christians we have a call to civility through love and humility, especially those who are hardest to love, just listen to Jesus words from Matthew 5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matthew 5:43-47 ESV
So may our lives, our tweets, our snaps, our words, be filled with love and humility, during a time that our news cycle is filled with words that are not. May we speak to one another as each made in the image of God, may we love and live like Christ who gave it all up for you and me, so that our sins might be forgiven, and we might be reconciled to the God who created us.