Tag Archives: Image of God

A Note About Political Hate Speech

You know, I don’t buy into it – the language on both sides of the political debates that serve only to demean the other side’s position to the point of labeling “them” as “destroyers of America,” or “God’s judgment on our country,” or labeling whole groups as “backward” or “bigoted” without ever attempting conversation that truly hears their opinions, fears, and beliefs.

By labeling each other in such ways, our conversations (politically, and often in many other spheres of conversation, including everything from dinner conversations about bills & travel arrangements to friendly chatting online) – all suddenly move from interesting conversations, where all involved learn something new about the people to whom they speak, into idealist rants that no longer conform to reality.

When Christians buy into the one-sided hype of a news group, Facebook meme, or conspiracy theory, we become unable to love our neighbor.

Folks, that’s the second greatest commandment. Words from the lips of our Savior. Kind of a big deal.

When we believe the other side to be nothing but hostile to our own, first, we’re letting a “side” identify us rather than our Kingdom identity as citizens of Heaven. Second, we’re reducing people who are our friends, family, and colleagues to faceless drones promoting our anti-ideal.

When we do this, we create an image of these people that is not the image God gave them – God gave them God’s image – not conservative/liberal, not pro-life/pro-choice/anti-choice, not gay/straight, not left/right.

I am extremely distressed when my dearest friends, of any persuasion, reduce the people they claim to love to being inherently wrong, godless, merciless people because of a political leaning or personal opinion.

Our words are indeed powerful. They build up and they can tear down. What we choose to do with them matters greatly.

I implore you, as a fellow traveler on this faith journey, my brothers & sisters, do not let your words tear others down. Yes, be involved in national politics. Speak up when you see injustice or bad decisions/speech (on EITHER side!). But never, ever buy into any group that labels whole groups wantonly.

We are so often deceived by our own prejudices. We must fight to reclaim the inclusive love of Christ that sees all people equally – that says “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

That means stopping hateful speech, first from your own lips (keyboard), then from the lips (keyboards) of those you love.

When you hear/read the phrase “all those [______]” (e.g., conservatives, liberals, bigots, illegals, gays, Muslims, etc.), immediately understand/accept that the author could no more know all of the [______] any more than you do. No one is an expert on all persons in any group, and only God knows the human heart anyway.

When you are tempted, because of your own fervent political (or even theological) belief to speak or post a snide, rude, unthoughtful, or generalizing comment, use the spiritual practice of self-discipline to withhold your initial feelings. Sleep on it. Ponder both sides. Maybe even go take a few minutes to meet with someone of the opposing position and just listen. Perhaps “those people” are not as general a group as you first believed.

And lastly, remember that just as your neighbor might not be perfect (might even be wrong!), so too are we all often wrong, horrible, and unkind. But we are a forgiven people, begotten of God, beloved of the Eternal, and we have been given grace beyond measure – grace that should always be extended, whether or not our family/friends/colleagues/enemies choose to extend it to us.

As it was written to the Christians in Ephesus (Eph 4):

“I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

Those who love the body of Christ will strive to maintain unity in the Spirit. They will avoid believing everything they hear about whole groups of people. They will speak up when a group is marginalized, even a group they may not always agree with. They will make wise decisions about what should be re-posted, shared, or commented on.

Prov. 14:15 “The simple believe everything, but the clever consider their steps.”

Prov. 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understand, but only in expressing personal opinion.”

They will take great pains to do the hard thing Christ commanded us to do: Love your neighbor as yourself. And who is my neighbor? Let’s ask Jesus:

Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus, ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii,* gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

 The Samaritans were a hated, marginalized group that was often generalized in Jewish circles as being inherently wrong about matters of faith, practice, and politics. They were called horrible names and chastised by their Jewish neighbors. They were theologically and politically considered absolutely wrong in most every way.

And Jesus, a faithful Jew, tells us: Such as these are our neighbors – we are called to care for them, and they for us.

You may disagree with them. But you are called to speak up for them.

You may not care for the way they live their lives. But you are to love them.

You may not want to support their causes. But you are called to avoid gossip & hate speech, all while standing up for them in their time of distress.

You’re even called to spend your time and money caring for their needs.

This is the way of the Kingdom.

Loving God With Our Whole Selves

Epiphanies 6/20/2012

It’s summertime. People are wearing fewer clothes and feeling more and more aware of their bodies (and probably more aware than they want to be of others’ bodies!). In this place of awareness, we will take a moment to think about our bodies and how they relate to our faith and relationship with God and others.

In a recent discussion with Melissa Browning at the Sexuality & Covenant Conference in Atlanta, we were faced with what she called a “Theology of the Body.” Now, to be clear, this is no new theology. John Paul II had pages and pages of papal encyclical to discuss a theology of the body for the Catholic tradition. But hers was a bit more nuanced and definitely differed from JPII.

Here’s a question for you: What role does the body play in theology/faith for you? (Possible Answers: it causes us to sin, it is a mode of worshiping – using body parts like mouths and feet, it is imperfect and diseased and thus holds us back or teaches us new things about ourselves, etc.)

Relevant magazine recently discussed a similar topic this week in an opinion article. Let’s take a quick look at this author’s take on “How spiritual are our bodies?”: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/29481-loving-god-with-all-your-strength

How do we feel about our bodies being more a part of our faith and less a hindrance to it? This author seems to imply that scripture shows how reliant we are on our bodies to even practice worship…

What do you think about our bodies as intertwined with our souls, rather than apart from them? What did the Hebrews think about souls? The Greeks? What do we do with all of this? What about Jesus’ incarnation – his human body? Being full divine and fully human all at once – did that say something about God’s valuing the human body/condition?

Paul, who was famous for struggling against unnecessary desires, just like his Greek contemporaries, still saw the body as integral to the worship and love of God, just as his ancestors before him. For Paul, the body was a temple we should care for.

Melissa Browning says “We experience life from our bodies – it is a lived experience through senses. We are not just minds.” She emphasized what Margaret Farley described as “Getting past the dualism of inspirited bodies and becoming embodied spirits.” She says that really, our bodies and our spirits limit each other – in good ways. We must begin to trust our bodies…

And I might add: love & cherish our bodies, as we are made in the image of God.

But what does this mean – the image of God? I mean, weren’t we always taught that the image of God really was not an image at all – that is was some sort of spiritual likeness? Do we actually LOOK like God, FEEL like God to the touch – do we RESEMBLE God??

Some theologians say that maybe we do – they discuss a striking anthropomorphic depiction of God. There’s not a lot to that scripturally, but it has been thrown out there as humanity has tried to figure out what our bodies have to do with our faith.

Maybe we do look like God…but not exactly that God looks like a human being. Perhaps it’s bigger than that. One theologian who has actively studied centuries of theology and come to his own conclusions, says that “the image of God is not like an image permanently stamped on a coin; it is more like an image reflected in a mirror. That is, human beings are created for life in relationships that mirror or correspond to God’s own life in relationship.”

Hmm. So, we are to live in relationship like God does. I mean, God is Triune – God is in relationship with God the father, son, and spirit, along with humanity & creation, all in self-giving love all the time. Wow. That’s a lot to ask.

But ask is exactly what Jesus did when he commanded us to “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.” That’s a bold statement. It assumes we love ourselves – because we know our bodies are made in God’s image. It assumes we recognize that we have neighbors who are also created in God’s image. And it means we use our bodies to actively pursue relationships with these neighbors (friends and enemies alike) in order to become more like God-in-relationship.

No, I’m not going to give you a long list of things we should/shouldn’t do to our bodies. We have lots of scripture and modern science to help us sort through that, and it would simply take too long for a single lesson to go over it all. But based on what you know about our bodies and how they should be cared for and used, what are some ideas you have about what you can do this summer to better use and protect your body in service to the Kingdom?

Can you better love your neighbor by going to see them physically? Can you better serve your community by being the “hands & feet” of Christ doing hands-on ministry? (There’s that metaphor again!). What about caring for your body in such a way so that you physically CAN do things for/with Christ? (I’ve quit preaching and gone to meddling…sorry, guys).

Take your time this summer. Care for yourself and others. Yes, vacation weeks and summer camp weeks might be hectic. But most of us have a tad more down time during the summer. The days are long, and we have choices about how to spend our time. Make choices that honor God with your body. Try to integrate your faith and your body more mindfully – you might just be surprised at the grace it can offer both you and those you are called to serve.