Imago Dei

24 Jan

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27 (NRSV)


Ironically, it had already been put on my heart to blog about Imago Dei before I heard about the formation of a new coalition announced today by the same name. The coalition, formed by Evangelicals including Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, Liberty Law School Dean Mat Staver and Life Today’s James Robison, was formed, according to a story in the Washington Post, “to encourage people to treat each other with respect.”

We really need a religious coalition to tell us this? To tell us we should treat one another with respect? Call me skeptical, but I am afraid it is just a ploy to put a nicer, friendly face on the same negative message about “the other” in order to keep bringing in funds.

It is at the beginning of the Bible, first book, first chapter, that God created humans in God’s own image – Imago Dei. This is easy to remember when we look at most babies, those we love, those we admire, and whatever is passing as society’s current standard for beauty. This becomes more difficult when considering those we dislike, despise, do not meet society’s standard for beauty, and those who commit heinous crimes.

Yet, much as Matthew 22:39 does not say, “Love your neighbor as yourself, except the ones who are too loud, don’t worship me, or are gay,” there are no qualifiers on Imago Dei. We are all made in the image of the holy.

I am reminded of Imago Dei when I read comments to news stories about crime. Invariably there are comments calling for any number of equally heinous (or worse) things to be done the accused. While part of me understands this, part of me shudders each time I view these reactions. Never mind our country’s principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Where is Imago Dei in this bloodthirstiness?

It is easy to separate ourselves into “us” and “the others” in many ways. One way people do this is with those who have committed a crime. Most of us have; most of us have just never been caught. I had a seminary professor who used to start many classes by asking how we enjoyed our sinning on the way to class. His premise was that many of us probably exceeded the speed limit at some point on the way there.

Of course I am not equating speeding with murdering 23 people or child molestation, nor have I read anyone demanding a speeder be “fried” or castrated. All I am asking is that next time you are quick to judge, condemn or sentence, you consider Imago Dei. It does not mean we are not responsible for our actions or should not escape punishment. It does mean that in the eyes of the holy, we all look like the same, shorn of our material adornments.

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