In His Image
Key Text: Genesis 1:26-27
So I have to say that I find it an interesting time to be alive. There seems to be a massive public dialogue on some really important issues, that if we are honest with ourselves needs to be addressed.
The problem is being honest with ourselves hurts. It’s painful to look deeply into the mirror and see yourself as you really are. Not as you hope to be but as a broken person in need of the love of Jesus.
I feel lucky to be alive in South Africa at the moment because I am forced to deal with things here that simply are not being addressed in other parts of the world.
Before we get into what I want to address this morning, I have to tell you where I am coming from.
I want to share that in no way am I here to condemn, rather I wish to share the journey that God is taking me and Natalie on and hopefully you can start a journey yourself. So whatever you here this morning, please know that I am preaching to myself first and everything said is in love and in no way condemnation.
So with that covered...
Let’s just say it has been an interesting year for news; big stories have battered us almost weekly. Nene gate, con court, Rhodes must fall, etc… There is a tendency to become exhausted from it all.
The one that probably struck the greatest response was the penny sparrow incident and the subsequent fallout and similar incidents that followed.
One positive is that it showed people that what you say online is public! But more importantly; it opened a discussion in this country that needed to be talked through but has not been willing to come to the surface.
I wonder what your reaction was? Probably “come on, it’s been 20 years… let’s all move on already.”
Can I be honest with you, that was my original reaction, but the events that followed; forced me to address my undeveloped understanding of what is happening in this country, and if forced me to reconcile my own prejudice.
If you would allow me to share, I recognised that although I would never share racist comments, and thought myself to be quite non-racial, I have come to realise over the last few months that I was brought up in a world view that many of its ideas still linger in my heart, and I have to be honest with myself and address them, if I am ever going to be faithful to what God has called me to in this country.
Before I get there let’s look at my first point;
What is wrong about Racism
It is important to reconcile ourselves with biblical doctrines so that we can evaluate our world appropriately from these teachings. To do this we need to turn to Genesis 1:26-27 while you are doing this let’s first look at the Genesis passage, a passage that many of us know deals with the creation of man, what some of us might not be aware of is the incredibly important teaching that is locked up within this passage; let’s read.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image,in our likeness,so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky,over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a]and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Locked up in this passage is the doctrine of who we are; and in this lies our shared purpose, our shared dignity, and shared value.
Church you and I and every person who has ever lived have all been made in the image of God. If you want a deeper explanation of and definition and extent of the what this means look up the Imago Dei in reputable theological dictionaries or systematic theology books.
We just don’t have the time this morning to fully develop the doctrine, however, what I want to do is explain the basics of this doctrine, and then the implications of its meaning.
So to be made in the image of God means that we bear God’s likeness in one way or another, we share characteristics with God and therefore stand unique in all creation because we alone are created in His image.
This means that every single human has a dignity; a specialness about them. We alone are more like God than any other creature, and because of that every person, no matter colour creed, ability or likeness needs to share in that equal dignity and honour.
In fact, the early church took hold of this idea and change the world, establishing care for widows, orphans, disabled and the outcast. Why because their Saviour and Lord; Jesus Christ, and taught them that all are equal before God, all share dignity before God and therefore all need care.
And again it is this doctrine that should force in us a revulsion of any idea of racism, why?
It is wrong
Devalues the Image (Imago Dei)
If we conclude, as Eurocentric racial ideologies did, that some people are more equal than others, that – to use their words, “other races simply are not equal to the whites” – we fracture this fundamental doctrine that God made all men, and that is ALL men in his image.
By accepting even in thought that one group of people are more capable, more “civilize”, more moral, “better” than another; we are concluding that one people group are more in the image of God than others.
This is a dangerous and I would say down right evil idea that needs to be identified as such; evil!
I believe any idea of racism has at its core demonic ideas; for it cause men to use others without question and abuse without moral recognition.
It has been used in history to commit some of the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. We see in Europe when the Nazis dehumanized the Jews; what happened; when the Hutus called their fellow human Tutsi’s “cockroaches” devaluing them as human beings resulting in one of the swiftest mass killings the 20th century has seen.
Nats and I rented the boy in the striped pyjamas and it was this movie that truly opened up our eyes to see the evil that has happened in our land. In this movie a young boy (who happens to be the child of a Nazi concentration camp commander, makes friends with another boy who is a Jew and is in the concentration camp. The only thing that separates these children is the electric fence, they play together and enjoy each other as young children do, however in the background of this story is the ongoing evil of prejudice seen in this young boy’s father. It is a shocking film but it forced me to see the complete evil that was the apartheid regime. The whole motive of the Nazis and the nationalist party was to dehumanise people in the eyes of others. For once you have dehumanized someone it is easier to treat them less than human.
The language of racism is one of dehumanisation. What are we doing? We are saying they don’t actually matter. They are less human than us; they are less image of God than we are. It is evil; demonic. This is why what penny sparrow said was taken so seriously.
Ultimately, church Racism is
Rooted in hate
It is a hatred that overflows; and unfortunately is not unique to South Africa. In fact, it is present in every country and people group around the world, all hating each other because we are not the same.
In this, however, we endanger our very salvation. Why do I say this? Well John uses strong words in 1 John 4:20-21
20If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God must love his brother as well.…
These words are strong, but have to be said today; how can we say we love God who we cannot see, but hate our brother who we can see? We are fooling ourselves. And again this is why I have to say that at the root of racism is a demonic evil.
Church we have a calling of God to be in the business of reconciliation; to be the one who stand in the gap; not ones who keep silent or even continue this pattern of hatred; sometimes even secret hatred, or implied hatred…
This leads me to the application of this morning;
What do I need to do?
Well, I guess the first place to start is not to expect others to change, but to recognise your own need to change.
I have had to come painfully in conflict with my own perspective. How my upbringing and my life experiences have formed me and have affected my thinking. We start this by:
See everyone as they are (Imago Dei)
Everyone is precious before God, everyone is capable of bringing God glory; in fact, the conclusion (or application of the doctrine of the image of God in man) is that every person’s sole reason for existence is to bring glory to God; to show God through their existence.
And so our first step is to actually see people as image bearers of our glorious God. This instantly changes the way we relate to our fellow human being, for their hurts become our hurts; their struggles speak to us anew.
I remember a pastor friend chatting to me how he remembers growing up under apartheid, how as a kid walking through checkers, he knew the owners were following him around a he felt the unease stare of white people. As a young child, all he knew was being hated. This broke me, knowing that a fellow human being’s childhood was typified by this; I felt his pain.
If we are willing to see this, then we can actually
Grow in my love(Agape)
Church if we are willing to call a spade a spade, call out racism for what it is; evil; then we can release ourselves to actually grow in our love for all people; and I mean real love, selfless love, the love that Christ shows for us the love we read about in Roman 5:8
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We don’t have to have people on our team to express this love, they don’t have to think like we think; or act like we act, we simply love them because they are image bearers of the God that we love.
This church is a journey we all need to take, and it is a work that God want to do in all of us and in this beautiful country.
I am so grateful to be alive in South Africa today, where else can you encounter so many cultures together? In this, we are forced to deal with our prejudices and are forced to grow into the loving people that God calls us to be.
I pray that what I have said today has not upset you or condemned you, rather caused you to reflect, to question if you are not holding onto something even if it is deep down that is not honouring but is, in fact, evil and if you are to start the journey to healing and wholeness that God desires for all of us.