What is a life?
It’s a gift right? I mean, whether you’re a Christ-follower or not, we think of life as a gift. From my vantage point, life is a gift because God has breathed the breath of life into every human that has ever existed. But it’s more than that.
Every human being is made in God’s image. (Gen 1:26-27) What does it mean to be made in God’s image? Well, God is Father, Son & Spirit. God has an invisible quality, a physical quality and a spiritual quality. To be made in God’s image is not simply an issue of form, it’s an issue of essence. At our very essence, we human beings are made in God’s image.
Also, the word human comes from the word humus which means dirt. (Which is why I don’t eat humus, I’m worried I might be eating someone I used to know.) But, the word human is in itself a reminder that God created us from the dirt. We have value because he made dirt valuable.
When choosing David as the future King of Israel, the prophet Samuel said: “The lord sees not as man sees: man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)
Being made in the image of God is about way more than what our outward appearance conveys. The way I think of it, God is so massive, so incredible, so amazing that even with 8 billion different looking people on the planet, we still only see Him in part. But when you add into that the entire essence of the person, the mind and the spirit, God truly becomes an incredible being.
And yet somehow we are made in His image, in his likeness and similarity.
Still, I don’t doubt that some reading this post may have an issue with what I have said on the basis that they don’t believe in God. But, that’s where the actual root of the problem is. The root of our problem is not in our American History, that’s a symptom. The root is not in the oppressors that have existed throughout human history, whether that’s Hitler, stalin, Herod or Pharaoh. People have mistreated other people since one particular moment in our history – the rebellion in the garden.
As soon as Adam & Eve chose to eat the fruit and rebel against the one rule God had given, everything was ruined. Why? Because we wanted to be our own gods. It’s that simple.
When you aren’t worshipping something higher than yourself and instead are worshipping yourself as the supreme being who determines what is good and evil, what is right and wrong, you are going to mistreat and murder people. Just look at Cain, Adam & Eve’s kid.
Our problem is not that we think to little of one another. Our problem is that we think to highly of ourselves.
As the prophet Jeremiah said: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.” (Jer. 2:5, 2 Kings 17:5)
We become like what we worship. If we are worshipping our maker and creator, we exist in an ever-increasing and uplifting state. The more you worship God, the more you become like God. The more you worship other things or yourself, the more you become like those things. And, consequently, the more you devalue yourself and others.
When you’re the supreme being, then it is necessary that others be beneath you. It takes a lot of humility to lift someone up above yourself, something that is nearly impossible if you are worshipping yourself. But when you understand you are made in the image of the almighty creator of the universe and you worship Him, your attention turns from how great you are to how great God is. When your focus is on your great God, it’s much easier to see every other blessed created thing as valuable. Because your focus isn’t on elevating yourself. Your focus is on elevating your make, creator and sustainer.
This is one reason mistreating anyone on the basis of their physical form is such an injustice. Not only is it an affront against another human being treating them on the basis of one third of who they actually are, it’s a mistreatment of God himself.
If someone were to attack one of my kids, it would take every ounce of self-control I had not to retaliate. Because they are my kids, they look like me and in some ways talk, think and act like me. (Sorry guys.)
God feels the exact same way about every one of his precious creations. And, by the way, he feels that way about all of them regardless of the state of their heart. He wants every single one of us to come to repentance, to turn away from our rebellion and turn to Him and be His people.
Yes, God is a just God. He will not let evil go unpunished. He will deal with it. His desire is that we put our faith in His Son, so that our rebellion can be dealt with by Christ on the cross. But, those who choose not to put their faith in Christ, God will still deal with their evil.
I reached out to someone in my wife’s family for help and perspective on what’s happening. And he shared some excellent thoughts with me. One of those being along these lines, that God is a God of justice. God rewards people who do justice. He also said, as much as God is about Justice, he’s a God of peace and love. There will always be evil in the world, there will always be rebellion.
But, as he said, God is also a God of redemption. God wants to see people rebel against their rebelious hearts and turn to him.
God is the only being who can truly bring about actual justice anyway. He’s the only one that exists outside of the situation. He’s the creator of all things, including the moral code that he put in each of our hearts to tell us that killing someone is wrong.
That’s necessary when it’s comes to being a good judge. You have to be outside the situation. We’ve heard too many times in the last couple of decades about judges making decisions based on their personal bias instead of on the facts.
This is why we need to turn to God in moments like this (and at all times). We cannot bring about true justice for George Floyd. We can work to change the system, to change broken policies and corrupt protections for people in power. And we should. But, as long as there are people in the world, there will be evil in the world.
And as long as that remains the case, we will continue to try to seek justice in unjust ways. We do not correct an injustice with another injustice. This isn’t math, two negatives do not make a positive.
As my friend said:
We have to hold people in power accountable. But, we also have to be accountable for our actions. If we’re going to hold someone else to a standard, we have to hold ourselves to that same standard.
Write your congressman, local political leaders to let them know you are in support of reform. Participate in activities that allow you to express your frustration without causing harm. Find another way to get out the emotions in a helpful way.
Think of it this way:
This is a moment in time. This is one chapter in a much larger story. And that story is one story in a library of stories that make up human history. In the same way we have been living in a story that will be told for decades to come with the coronavirus, we’re living through the George Floyd story that will also be told for decades.
But, being in the story gives us one major advantage, we have the ability to influence the arc of this story in real-time. We don’t have to, we can choose to be bystanders who observe the players in the story. Or we can be those who become one of the players, one of the characters.
As any story goes, we’ve had the inciting incident. There have been too many of these same inciting incidents. There have been too many times where the precious gift of a life has been recklessly taken. But, this incident will just set the arc of the story that is going to unfold in the weeks and months ahead.
Will this be a story of division and destruction or will this be a story about finally coming together across as the human race across the span of differences that have unnecessarily divided us?
The choice is up to us.
What is ringing in my mind are the words of Jesus:
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
And the words of James, his little brother: “Peacemakers who so in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
And Jesus: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And Jesus interceding to the Father on behalf of the Roman soldiers who were executing Him: “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Is this a time to sit by and be quiet? Probably not. But neither should we criticize people who don’t know what to say or how to say it. Is this a time to just hope that things change without getting involved to change them? Probably not. But neither should we judge people who choose not to get involved in that way.
As my friend said:
A moment in time, when one group of people based on their color can be brutalized in this way without others stepping in who were watching. Until you know people and know their stories, we don’t know the context of what they’re going through.
Then show them God’s love right where they are.
Just like this story is a part of a bigger story, every single person is living a different story. Pretty much every human on the planet right now has just gone through a majorly disrupting season of life. This may be causing some people to want to respond to this situation by burning buildings, but it may cause others to respond with quiet. But, if we judge people’s over or under reaction to this situation, we going to find ourselves stuck in the same loop of rebellion we’ve always been in. As we need to love people who may be reacting in ways we disapprove of, we need to love others whom we think are reacting enough.
Government is not the answer (though we should seek change). Policies are not the answer (though we should seek change there as well). Systems need changed, paradigms and assumptions need to be dealt with, but they will not bring about the change we need to see.
Only God can do that through His people who are choosing to worship Him with everything they have so that by that worship they may be able to see all of God’s creation as precious in His sight.