Image of God Overcomes Racism

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This year has been a challenging year, so many tragedies on too many fronts. From our living rooms, we witnessed brutality and murder of black people followed by protests and counter protests. Rage and fear were on so many faces. 

COVID is a reality for most of us, and a conspiracy for some. Like many other disasters, we have left the poor, alien, and the oppressed to fend for themselves. And some have died. Yet we proclaim and maintain positions and counter positions. As we do, may we have ears to hear God’s word. May we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

Race Relations work is not a standalone work or an add-on to the gospel message. It is central to the calling found in Luke 4:18-19 and Mathew 28:18-20. Anti-racism honors people as Image Bearers. As beings created in the Image of God all people have dignity and must be treated with dignity. Antiracism is giving sight to the reality of being set free from a blinding racism, a worldly identity. 

Racism forces believers and unbelievers into a corrupted identity of hostility toward one another. Racism assumes a hierarchy of peoples destined to harming of Black peoples, First Peoples and the strangers. In contrast, the mission in Mathew 28:18-20 is to make disciples of all nations. It is a call to repentance from a worldly identity in exchange for the rich gift of freedom to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. 

Fear should not keep us from addressing racism. The Apostle Paul warns Titus to avoid foolish controversies about the law because they are unprofitable and useless[1]. The aim is a sound doctrine that leads to what is good[2]. In leading, he instructs Titus to rebuke sharply Jewish myths and cultural norms[3] otherwise they produce actions that deny Christ. 

Racism is our modern day myth. It is a sin to refute. It has divided the church. Yes, supporting moral stances on abortion, sexuality, and same sex marriage unites our local church. But ignoring the prophetic texts on the orphans, widows, and the strangers divides God’s church. The question of faithfulness to scripture requires discernment. Knowledge of the truth leading to godliness[4] is difficult, especially in political decisions. So, what will inform us most? Will it be scripture or the fear that drives racism? God lead us to godliness in doing what is good.

Scripture provides great response to the evil sin of racism. With the imago Dei, God gives the humans a measure of sovereignty over all the earth. God makes man a rule over His creation[5]. “God notes not only their common humanity, but also their specific histories, their particular psychological, social, and embodied selves with their specific needs[6].”

What might this reality look like in contrast to nationalistic narratives? A history grounded in a belief in the imago Dei will not neglect the elite and privileged members of society, but it will also demand a fundamental reordering of the stories we tell about the human actors we meet in the past[7]. Pursuing what is good for America cannot supersede our heavenly call to love God and our neighbor here or abroad. 

God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1).       

Sometimes what we learn early in life becomes so familiar that it becomes routine. As a Race Relations staff member, I would like to encourage all of us to revisit the meaning of being created in the image of God. 

  1. What does that mean for me in how I see myself in relationship to my neighbor?
  2. What does that mean in my action or inaction when dignity is not seen in our neighbor and is not treated with the dignity God gave them?
  3. What does it mean for the church to teach congregants to see their neighbor through the lens of imago Dei or Image of God?
  4. Christ approached a hated people by have a conversation with the Samaritan woman. He also gave the example using this hated group in the parable of the good Samaritan. What people are our modern day Samaritans? Think of a specific person from that Group and ask God to help you do what Christ did. 
  5. As a church seek ways to engage with congregations in your neighborhood or city not to teach or to help but just be in fellowship.
  6. IF you are more of a tech nerd consider researching statistics on social issues that show a trend that is leading your community away from recognizing the dignity in everyone and creating laws or policies that are harmful to people. As you find those, raise awareness about the injustice and find biblical grounds for a response. 

In this post, I have focused on leading us back to seeing everyone as Image Bearers. I hope that no one will take offense at my starting ground for addressing racism. While we all have this in our minds, I wonder if it has penetrated our hearts. I also recognize that many of us are working out of a belief that we live see everyone and treat everyone as God’s image bearers. Yet part of our faith is dealing with the Fall. So in my next post I will focus on the connection with racism and the fall of humankind. 

[1] Titus 3:9

[2] Titus 3:1

[3] Titus 1:10-14

[4] Titus 1:1

[5] Imago Dei, by Mark Ross Tabletalk Magazine; April 1, 2013

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/imago-dei/

[6] Christian Historians and the “Imago Dei” by John Fea; July 8, 2020

https://thewayofimprovement.com/2020/07/08/christian-historians-and-the-imago-dei/

[7] Christian Historians and the "Imago Dei"

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