A brilliant friend of mine who happens to have the same name as me, said (more or less), ‘You can feel close to God when you’re stressed, tired, or distracted. Sometimes, I think people don’t realize that the times when we feel we can’t “fit” Jesus into our lives are the times we need him most and can feel the closest to him.’
I won’t tell you why she said this was because I was telling her that I was stressed, tired, and distracted. I am currently every meme where a person walks into a house and collapses on an anemic carpet and quits. Not only am I mentally and physically exhausted from sickness recovery and my enormous family responsibilities, but the latest news about this election cycle, the death of RBG, and the disappointing culmination of Breonna Taylor’s murder have sent me, and many others, into a state of rancid fatigue.
No, it’s not about political parties. It’s about the bizarre and substandard way Americans have been approaching human lives over the last—insert however many years you’ve been alive—and politicized it to such a degree that even Christians are fighting to swim up a stream of nonsensical morality.
What do Scriptures say? What has Jesus Christ himself said?
First of all, we know that in Genesis 1:26, God says, ‘Let us make man[kind] in our image’ (ESV). Whether one believes the creation story to be literal or figurative, we do know that a tenet of the Christian (and Judaic) faith is that all people—not just those who accept the Hebrew Messiah—are created or made in the image of God.
We all bear his likeness. We all have inherent value just because.
So then, how was Christ presented to humankind? The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people’ (v. 2:17, ESV).
Friends, brothers, and sisters—there is no question that not only was humankind made in the image of God, but the one who is the chief cornerstone of our whole religion is Himself made in the image of God because he had to be made like his brothers in every respect.
What does this tell us? What can we conclude?
It’s quite simple.
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:13-17, ESV, emphasis mine).
We can conclude that as people made in the image of God who subsequently fell away, and who now ‘no longer… live, but Christ who lives in [us]’ (Galatians 2:20, ESV) because we believe, we must ‘be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind[s], that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God’ (Romans 12:2, ESV).
The renewed mind—the mind of Christ—is opposed to oppression, violence, racism, hatred, and everything else on the various lists of un-Godly behavior presented by multiple writers of the Bible.
It is not the will of God to aid in suffering, but to relieve it. Why would we look for this in our own promise of heaven—‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore’ (Revelation 21:4, ESV)—but do the complete opposite while we are on this side of the corporeal?
I have always wondered why it is hard for us to choose mercy or love, gentleness, or compassion. Still, when people are afraid or feel threatened by the other, or someone who is not like them, there is a mirage of encroachment on lifestyle, choice, or culture—a mistaken panic of loss of self and ownership.
Aye, but you are not your own, are you? ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (I Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV).
And we must honor other bodies: White bodies, Black bodies, Brown bodies, Female bodies, Ethnic bodies, Child bodies, Prison bodies, Poor bodies, Disabled bodies, Sick bodies, Non-Christian bodies, Non-American bodies.
Friends, it is a difficult thing to examine ourselves. What parts of your beliefs that are not in the image of God are, in fact, in the image of you? What hasn’t yet renewed in your mind?
Jesus will never conform to the idols we make for him—whether it’s in political platforms, denominations, laws, legalisms, ideas, or the odd blue-eyed, nearly blond-haired Messiah in film, paintings, and children’s books.
Jesus looks like the other because he is the other. And the other looks exactly like God.
I was talking to another friend about how sad it makes me that I believe many believers will be surprised when told
‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:41-45, NIV)
How did the words of Jesus Christ become contorted into political ideologies which commodify human lives for votes, power, money, and the preservation of arbitrary ‘rights’?
This is not who we are supposed to be.
‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love’ (I John 4:7-8, ESV).
If you’ve read this far, I can’t say if this is more a rebuke or a plea, but likely both.
We are called to ‘not conform to this world,’ but ‘be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds’ (Romans 12:2, ESV). We are in no way supposed to reflect the things that are not made in God’s original likeness because we are not made, nor intended, to be anything less than the image of God, the image of Christ.
Embrace each other, fight for the oppressed, seek justice for the devalued, love God and others more than you do yourself.
‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18, NIV).
My prayer is that we will humble ourselves and seek God’s wisdom for this very difficult time.