EQUALLY Made In God’s Image

The enemy LOVES to distract God’s people. He can accomplish so much this way.

In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, senior devil Screwtape advises his junior apprentice devil to corrupt people by creating mass distractions that divert attention from the real issues at hand: “The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood.”

How many witch hunts is the “church” currently involved in? Of course I am generalizing here, and picking on those that continue to come to the forefront of the news. But, if you consider the amount of time, money and effort put in to “battle” against what people DO that Christians “don’t like” versus the same sum of efforts put into building others up and showing the UNCONDITIONAL love of Christ, then you’d be hard-pressed not to find a gross imbalance.

Why don’t we focus on WHO people are rather than just WHAT they do? God is the only one who can change a heart or a behavior. It is not our job to try to do those things. Our job is to welcome ALL with open arms and to show the love that Christ has shown us.

If people are validated, unashamed, and feel heard and respected (even if they are not always understood), they are more likely to be good people. We don’t have to agree with another person’s race, politics, beliefs or sexual identity or orientation to show them the love of the One who created them. No race or nationality is superior to another. The fear that seems to steer so many “church people” to be hateful of those who are different is baffling to me. God commanded us not to live in fear. He commanded us to live in love.

We must allow people to be who they are and celebrate their uniqueness. The personal choices someone makes should not keep them from being allowed in the church or to be treated as an equal. (Obvious exclusions would be disruptive or disrespectful behavior, and that should go for everyone equally as well).

People who see the true love of Christ will want it. And, once they accept it, he will work on their behavior from the inside out.

Instead, I see the church creating division rather than welcoming diversity.

Old “Christianese” phrases like, “love the sinner, hate the sin” are overplayed. Anyone who says that to someone struggling in life… BACK AT YA! We are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us is better than another! Jesus came that we ALL might be saved. The end. Each journey with Him is unique and in its own time.

Let’s truly follow Scripture and tame our tongues, shall we?

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-12 NIV

So, let us beware of our own thoughts and speech. Let us also not remain silent when we hear hateful or degrading speech about others. Let us see one another through God’s eyes – as beautiful, unique and loved.

With all that’s happening in the world with famine, wars, and disasters, let’s stop focusing on what bathrooms people use….let’s focus on lifting up those in need. Let’s focus on the real issues at hand and stop allowing Screwtape to send us scurrying around with fire extinguishers in a flood.

Equally = UNIQUE

Last Sunday morning the most deadly terror act since 911 happened on U.S. soil in Orlando, Florida at a dance club. 49 people were fatally shot and that many more wounded. Can you even imagine the terror? I was supposed to write a post for Monday, but I have been paralyzed all week due to my feelings about this senseless tragedy, and honestly my lack of faith in all humanity. How do I turn that into “Life Words?” Well, I’ve been aching and praying over it, so I’ll give it a shot. Please bear with me.  

I had already planned on writing about how unique every human being is – how utterly special and irreplaceable each one of us is. I have touched on this subject before as it amazes me how different we all are. Just like each snowflake, each blade of grass, each sand dollar. How amazing the variety that God has allowed within His creation since He started this earth spinning. Thousands upon thousands of years of DNA and gene pools mixing and changing, creating billions of unique human beings, each with special skills and a special purpose. Each created in the very image of God.  

Photo credit: Kristin Coke

Photo credit: Kristin Coke

So, through my tears of anguish after last Sunday’s events, I am connecting that thought of individual uniqueness with the aftermath of such an evil event, while doing my best to represent my God, myself, my family bloggers, and all groups of humankind with dignity and grace. That is my deepest intention as I sort through this array of emotion.  

First, I must say that I have been happy to see many people who generally spread hate against the LGBT community empathizing with their fellow humans who have lost loved ones and the terror that the survivors must endure. Progress. However, I have also seen people jumping on the anti-muslim train as that must be the “worse of the evils” in this scenario. However you look at it, it’s all stemmed from hate, fear, and ignorance, not love.  

One bad, misguided (probably confused, lonely and isolated) man took innocent lives and lost his own. Yes, we MUST reform our gun laws properly in order to get a handle on this violence. But, we MUST NOT fall into the trap of lumping groups of people into categories. Jesus would not do this if he were still here walking the earth. What would Jesus do?  

People love to spout out Scripture verses and speak on behalf of God. So many people do that to try to back up whatever they feel passionately about. We see this all the time. (In fact, the only groups that Jesus actually got angry with when he walked the earth were those who used Scripture to back up their own agenda of religious rules rather than being compassionate and loving their fellow man).  

Let’s look at some of the red letter text attributed to Jesus himself rather than haphazardly spouting out laws and regulations pulled from various books of the Old Testament without context. Perhaps we can gain some insight into what he would do, and what he expects us to do.  

In Luke 6:27, 28 he says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” 

In Luke 6:37, 38 he says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you….For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

In Luke 6:43-45 he says, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit….The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” 

From that I get that even a person who “claims Christ” but speaks hatefully toward any other human being is a bad tree who bears bad fruit. The fruit speaks for itself. And the commandments say that hatred in our hearts is equal to murder. 

He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 

No matter what terror we face on earth by other evil humans, we must not live in fear. We must not return hate for hate, but we must do what we can to live in and at peace.  

Even on the cross as he was about to die for the sins of ALL MANKIND Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23: 34  

Nowhere does it say that Jesus died for SOME of us. ALL of us were made in His image, ALL of us fall short and are sinners, and ALL of us are able to receive his gift of eternal life if we want it. 

And what did Jesus say was THE MOST IMPORTANT thing – he says it many times, and here in one passage he says it twice:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: LOVE EACH OTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:9-13

Then he says it again in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.” 

So, through these few passages attributed to Jesus himself, we see his nature, we see how he treats others and expects us to treat one another. He clearly states that we will not all agree on everything as we will have enemies and friends, but that we must love one another equally. He NEVER qualifies his statements of love. He never excludes any person or group. He clearly COMMANDS that we LOVE EACH OTHER, refrain from judgment, live at peace, bear good fruit, pray for one another, and give selflessly to one another.  

Nowhere does Jesus say to shun those who live a different lifestyle than we do, or believe a different way than we do. God gave us all the freedom to choose. Why are we so threatened by people with whom we disagree? We should all find security in our own relationship with God and peace within ourselves and the way we treat others. The judgment of each individual heart is up to God and God alone. Tolerance does not mean we have to agree with everyone, it just means we need to treat everyone with the same respect and dignity that we want to be treated with.  

Don’t you remember? DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. 

Again, no qualifier listed. We are all created equal and deserve to be treated as such. 

I heard a pundit say yesterday that if all the peaceful muslims of the world would get together, we could end radical islam within months. Oh, if that were only true. Evil people have always existed and always will – within every creed, race and social structure. 

What about the hate that is preached from so many pulpits? How about the pastor in Southern California who said from his pulpit just hours after this tragedy of death and violence that, “the real tragedy is more of them didn’t die” and “Orlando is a little safer today because 50 pedafiles died.” WHAT? Statistics show there are more pedafiles amongst “straight white ‘Christian’ men” than there are in the LGBT community. How did he even make that leap? To invoke fear and hatred amongst his congregation. Those people should be taking a stand and not supporting that ungodly man. If you want to see sexual deviance you need not look further than higher-ups hiding inside of some of the church community of the world. Where is the outrage from Christians against that?  

This does not represent the God of love that I serve. And why don’t all the Christians of the world unite to end that radical hatred that so many are preaching?  

Do you know how many gay and transgender people in the world suffer from overt hatred and exclusion? Do you know how many muslim people are ridiculed and shunned by “Christians” especially after events like this where one evil extremist man terrorizes innocent people?

Jesus never excluded any person, and he never will. He welcomes all to enter into relationship with him. By his example, we must set aside all our fear and hatred and treat EVERY human with love and respect. We are all on our own path and God is ultimately in control. If we truly believe that, we can set aside our differences, be kind to one another and love one another as we love ourselves.

NO EXCEPTIONS. 

We are all created in the image of God. We are all on our own journey and path in this life. We cannot force our own beliefs on others. If we believe in love and peace, then our own words and actions will reflect that and others will see our beliefs in action, prompting them to inquire about the source.

Respect all human life. Don’t allow bullying or hatred to be spoken or shown without taking a stand against it when you can. This is our great challenge, and it is imperative to showing the true nature and love of Christ.  

Use your uniqueness as your platform to stand for love and truth in this troubled world. You are one of a kind, and your story matters. There are people who will cross your path that only you can reach with God’s love.  

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10