Alton Sterling & the Imago Dei

So in the midst of a busy day I have been reading the thoughts of some of my friends from a city that I love and praying for Baton Rouge throughout the afternoon. I am just confused by the whole thing and I don’t have any answers. I would say that I know the One Who is the answer and I believe I do, but the problem is saying that just sounds trite and usually seems to shut down thoughts and actions that might lead to working towards justice for all, rather than doing what I believe Jesus actually does, which is be with us in the midst of our pain and push us to look for the actions that reflect the kingdom of God (Thy will be done on earth as in heaven).

So instead I sit here thinking what would I be doing right now if we still lived in Baton Rouge. Would my family and I be doing something gloriously stupid that might cost me the position I had at a overwhelmingly white church? Would I be asking my black friends how I could assist them in using the moment to push for greater justice for them and a society where African-American males don’t have to walk in fear just because of the color of their skin? Because, I fear for my friends who are young black men and what they often have to face. Would I be encouraging the BR police force to consider its actions and attitudes while also listening to the police men and women that I knew and hearing their fears? Because I fear for my friends who are peace officers and what they have to face. Would I be helping my friends and neighbors work toward a better society? Because we need to continually be forming our country into a more perfect union.

I hope so but the reality is that I am just a transplanted Southern living in Wisconsin. I’m no longer down there so I don’t really know what I would be doing.

I do hope that I would be encouraging myself, my family and friends, and everyone else to purposefully be looking for the image of Christ in the people we would be talking and interacting with over the next weeks and months. Encouraging both sides to look with eyes hoping to discern the face of God in the others around us. Seeing Christ in someone changes the way I act. Noticing His image (the Imago Dei or Imago Christi) in someone else tends to shake me out of just living my own agenda and reminds me to act out the upside down kingdom of God –  a kingdom where the weak are strong and leaders serve instead of lording their power over people. My problem is that I often forget to remind myself to look for the Imago Christi in the people that I am having trouble or the people I am scared of. When I don’t see that image I tend to do really stupid things in the way I treat people.

I guess if I were in Baton Rouge I would be constantly reminding people at the church I served of the 25th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. I’ll paraphrase it how I believe the passage fits in the current situation.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the peoples will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was different from you and you treated Me fairly and didn’t let your fear control you, I was scared and you didn’t see My fear as a threat to you, I was a stranger and you invited Me in rather than wanting Me out of your area, I needed protection and your protected Me, I was culturally sick and you helped Me see past what the cultural was telling Me, I was imprisoned in a system that was destroying Me and you fought to break through that system and help Me be free.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see You different and treat You fairly, or scared and not see Your fear as a threat? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing protection and protect You? When did we see You culturally sick or imprisoned in a system and be a part of Your healing and escape?

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”

Then He will say to those on his left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was different from you and you took advantage of Me because you saw My difference as a threat to you, I was scared and you saw My fear as a threat and sought to hurt Me, I was a stranger and chased Me away, I needed protection and you turned your back on Me, I was culturally sick and you thought you were better than Me, I was imprisoned in a system that was destroying Me and you just said it was all My own fault and doing.”

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you different or scared or a stranger or needing protect or culturally sick or imprisoned, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”

I hope that if I was still in Baton Rouge I would be helping people to act like sheep to one another because of seeing the Imago Christi rather than not seeing it and acting like goats. I hope I am doing this now in Wisconsin. It is the only answer I have right now.

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