The Imago Dei Calls for the Rejection of Racism

Every now and then at Tapestry I talk about my friend and former “thread” Joel. Joel studied soil science at UWSP. Some people may use the saying “as dull as dirt” but Joel finds dirt fascinating and when he speaks about soil I realize that I suddenly find soil fascinating too. He believes (rightly so) that soil is amazing and therefore he expects to find interesting stuff in soil and looks for that which is interesting.

I post fairly often on this blog concerning the Imago Dei. Genesis describes humanity as being created in the image of God, the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26). If you are human then you bear the image of God. That image might be bent or smudged or scarred but underneath those scars, dirt, and deformities is the image of our Creator.

Jesus tells a story of people doing and not doing things for Him in the 25th chapter of Matthew. In the parable that Jesus is telling the King, representing the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus), says the following to those who have helped Him.

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 hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (34b-36)

Why were they helping Jesus by helping “the least of these brothers and sisters” of Jesus? Well because they were brothers and sisters of Him because they were image bearers. To see the image of God in them and to react to that image was to see and serve God. This is also why He curses those who do not help Him.

Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. (v. 41b-43)

The image of God was right in front of them, they didn’t see it, and they didn’t respond  to the Imago Dei. Therefore, they have turned their backs on God Himself.

This is why racism has to be called what it is – evil. It is looking at someone who bears the Imago Dei and ignoring that image by considering that person as less than. When we look at others we should see our Father and our Brother Jesus because they bear image of the triune God. Regardless of skin color, culture, citizenship, or language, we are all image bearers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all of us live a life that reflects the image we bear.

So let me get back to my friend Joel. Since, he is looking for amazing stuff when he looks at soil he sees it for the amazing, life-encouraging substance that it is. He then helps other people to see soil as amazing. I’m not trying to put words in Joel’s mouth but I believe that if he saw some one seriously damaging soil he might say them them, “Hey, don’t treat soil like that because it is amazing and we depend upon it.”  When you see soil as an amazing, life encouraging substance how could you not respond?

As a follower of Christ I should be recognizing the image of my God in those around me and responding to the Imago Dei. When I see or hear someone treat another image bearer as less than I have to stand up for that person because he is an image bearer. “Don’t you see the image of our Creator right in front of you? That person right there bears the Imago Dei! To treat her as less than is to insult and hurt the One Whose image she bears! That’s evil! Your actions are evil!” When we see someone hurting the image of the God you love how could we not respond?

Discussing immigration is not a racist thing, but immigration discussions can be turned into a excuse to deny the image of God in people who are different than us. Such discussions can be used to declare others as less than us. My friend Scott, who is an immigration attorney, often posts on his Facebook page concerning how messed up the current immigration system can be. Improving the immigration system is a good thing. Treating those made in the image of our Creator as less than is evil. Those of us who claim to be followers of Christ should constantly be focusing our eyes to see the image of our Lord in those around us and we should  fight for the sanctity of life for ALL who were created in His image.

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