Imagine if you wrote a book or a story. Maybe you used a pseudonym, so that no one knew that you were the author, but you wrote about yourself. As a result, the main character had your traits, your skills, your background, and your approach to life.
Then, one day, your writing is published. Searching online, you start to see reviews of the book, and comments being made about it. There’s the usual distribution of fanboys and trolls, but among those who really seem to be giving an honest opinion, you find a trend emerging: the quality of writing and the story itself are reviewed favorably, but people really don’t like the main character. They call out the very attributes of yourself that you imparted to this protagonist, and they make fun of them. They attack the character’s personality, choices, appearance, and opinions. Interested readers start to buy the book just to get a taste of this now-famous character that everyone “loves to hate”.
I suspect that you’d be – to put it mildly – a little bummed. If you were getting paid to sell your writing, the money would probably ease the pain a little bit, but you’d still feel the sting of having the illustration that you made of yourself put down by so many. (They are none the wiser, and aren’t being malicious. After all, so far as they know, they aren’t making fun of a real person, just a fictional character. They think you’re a literary genius, whoever you are.)
No, this isn’t some tale about myself. I’m not trying to get back at the Internet for its feedback on my writing about myself as a fictional character. (On the contrary, when I write about my own shortcomings, I usually admit what I’m doing, so that everyone can laugh at me…and with me.)
Instead of looking to me, though, read through this passage, instead:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26-27 NASB
Adam was created in God’s image. And, as his descendants, we share at least some of these characteristics. See also this verse below, which suggests to me that any human life has value because of what – or rather, Who – it was designed to reflect.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man.
Genesis 9:6 NASB
We must be careful not to project human feelings onto God. We cannot think of God as somehow being limited to our pale reflection. (Instead, the ideal would be for us to emulate God’s attributes – those that we are able to achieve in our finite state.) However, the illustration at the start of this article may give us some idea what God might think when we demean other human beings, since people – no matter how much we may dislike any one of them – are each made in His image.
Yes, each of us falls short of the ideal that God created us for. We’re not God, and frankly, sometimes we don’t even feel like we resemble Him in the least. On the other hand, we may be tempted to judge others (especially those whose weaknesses differ from our own) where their image deviates from God’s holiness. Or, it may be easy to make fun of others who have habits that we can’t relate to. We may find ourselves in a group where some have already decided what they think of the person who just walked in the room, based on appearance, attire, or even the vehicle that he or she came in.
Regardless of the forces that tend to drive us towards magnifying our differences, dividing us up into groups, and picking sides, the simple fact is that we are all created in God’s image. That person who likes a different sports team (or political party) from you was created from the same pattern as you. Other human beings that you may have difficulty communicating with or relating to – because of language, habits, or traditions – are part of the world that God so loved, as described in John 3:16. Even the people who look like they come from the opposite side of the proverbial tracks are loved by God no less (and no more) than He loves you.
So, the next time that you or I look up to see someone awkwardly scanning the room for a friend (or anyone to talk with at the party), or looking for a table to sit at and have lunch, I propose that we try something different. Let’s momentarily look at them as a unique creation of God, crafted in His image (yet unique among everyone else who has walked this earth), and loved by Him. Then – hopefully not too long after that – maybe it’s appropriate to make eye contact, and do something friendly. You could walk over to say hi, or just wave him or her over to your table.
Sometimes, showing God’s love to others means treating them the way He would treat them. And, if you’re like me, you’re probably also finding yourself on the receiving end of an exchange like this, from time to time. Let us live together on this earth as those with much in common, as we all seek and serve the God in whose image we were created.