Then Elohim said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness"...So Elohim created mankind in his image, in the image of Elohim he created him; male and female he created them.
Gen. 1:26 & 27
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these bothers of mine, you did to me..., 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
Matt. 25: 40 & 45
With our tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.
This past week I got upset. I don't recall the last time I got upset quite like that. And by "Upset," I mean angry.
A fellow at work had made some very derogatory and vulgar statements about women in my presence, and it caused me to get rather upset.
I'm not going to go into detail about what he said, but there is a story with in a story with in another story in all of this.
A friend of mine asked me a long time ago if I get offended easily. The answer is "no." I told him that I do get offended, but that you have to put some effort into it. I'm not going to expend the energy it takes to get worked up over a half-hearted effort. It's not worth it. Everyday I see and hear things that I don't like. It's part of living in a fallen world. It rarely surprises me anymore, nor do I bother to get all bent out of shape because there is only so much I can do about it.
However, I have my share of buttons to be pressed. Being crude about women is one of them. In fact, it isn't just women. It tends to be people in general and "The least of these" in particular. Those our society deems to be of lesser value, the weak, the marginalized. When they are abused, even verbally, it makes me "Upset."
True story; many years ago, God cursed me with a blessing...or blessed me with a curse. Read it for yourself when you have the time...
Suffice it to say that ever since that day, I've seen people differently.
The world has all sorts of definitions for people. You are Liberal or Conservative, Gay or Straight, this, that or the other things. I think those labels are stupid, and it bothers me when Christians embrace them. They are stupid because they are The World's labels. As such, they are as flawed and fallen as the world, and as flawed and fallen as the people who invent those philosophies and the labels that go with them.
I'm pretty sure that God looks at things rather differently, and expects his followers to do the same.
The bible has many different ways of labeling and defining people, and none of them fit the stupidity of the world's labels. It begins with the poetry found in the first creation story. There is A LOT of depth to that poetry, and to what it is to bear God's image just in that passage alone. Suffice it to say, all I want to focus on is initial glance at it.
...So God created mankind in his image...
To be an image bearer is where all human value, dignity and worth are found...simple as that. It is irrelevant who you are or what position in society you have. You bear His image. You have value because of it.
It has been said many times, that The Kingdom is upside down compared to the values of this world. What we deem valuable, God deems as trash. What we deem as trash, God deems as most beautiful. In fact, that which is "Less Than" and "The Least of These," it would almost appear that Jesus deems to be more valuable than someone like myself.
That homeless guy, the junkie, the prostitute, etc., I am convinced based on the character displayed by Jesus in his earthly ministry, he has a special heart for them. To look down your nose and despise, degrade and dismiss them is to do that to Jesus. (How well do you think that will work out?) And that is the real reason I got upset about my co-worker's words.
I tried to explain a bit of that to my bosses. I told them that when I hear words like that, I actually feel physical pain. It actually burns my very soul.
But then I went on to say that if this is true about being an image bearer, then it is also true that all of us need a great deal of Grace, Mercy and Compassion...including the person who made these remarks that "Upset" me.
A few days later, this individual who upset me, confronted me. He had figured out that it was me that had got him into a bit of hot water. However, that was not what caused him to confront me. As it turns out, I had actually "Upset" him the previous day by greeting everyone at work except for him. He took that as a personal slight.
I hadn't even realized I had done that. I just assume that I say hello to everyone I see when I get to work, and then get on with it. But I had legitimately hurt his feelings and didn't realize it. (You see the story with in the story now?)
I apologized earnestly, and we had a talk for awhile. I explained why I didn't like his choice of words, and he explained a bit about his side. Without going into detail, he has his own pain, struggles and frustrations that he has had to, and still is, deal with. He needs mercy and so do I.
It was a good and productive talk.
I like narrative theology. I like it because life is a story, and so are people. We are all walking narratives. I like to hear a good story. And I like to hear the story of a person.
Christians have a duty to stand up for what is right and wrong, but it is more important for us to actually live it. It is dangerous for any follower of Jesus to wander into the area of judging other walking stories. God doesn't share his power in that way.
I think it wiser to have good eyes and ears. To look at another person and see God's image staring back at you. To listen to their story. You will see things differently when you do that. You will hear things differently when you do that. I don't understand much of the "Whys" of this life. "Why does God allow this, that or the other thing?" I don't know. Sometimes I "Get it," but usually if I get an answer at all, it's in the form of a surprise.
I'm thankful God answers in those ways.
If it's true that the Bible is the story of God's pursuit and relationship to fallen humanity, then God likes a good story, too. I think that if you start looking for his image in this world, and in the people he sends into your life, even if only for brief moments, you really will see and hear differently.
And you just might hear his voice singing in the background.