All Human Life is Sacred Because it Bears God’s Image
I would hope all Christians would say yes to this, but do we know why? Do we know why we recoil in horror at a mass murder like Sandy Hook or Las Vegas? Why should we recoil in horror at the thought of a mother and doctor discussing whether to keep or destroy the newborn infant? Here’s why:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)
In the very first chapter of his book, God lays out who he is and who we are and how our purpose and value are derived from God. God created man “in his own image.” What does that mean? It means human life is unique. God created everything else in the universe, and nothing else is given this sacred distinction.
Here we need to see the unique dignity and honor that God gives to human life. Bearing God’s image means that human beings have more likeness to him, more in common with him, than anything else in all creation. All the galaxies. All the herds of migrating animals in Africa. All the birds. All the atoms and molecules. All of them reflect the glory of God and say something about his divine nature (Romans 1:18-20). Yet, there is more of God’s likeness in one human being than all the galaxies combined.
Every human being is a moral and spiritual being. We have a soul with relational and spiritual capacities unique to us and God. We are moral and morally accountable to God unlike any tiger or mosquito is. Although in my opinion, mosquitoes should be judged. Our value is a derived value.
Here’s how this works. The more glorious and valuable we see God to be, the more treasured his image is. Because we love our children, we value their image in pictures and videos. We love them, so we love their image. If we love God, we will love his image wherever and whoever it is.
What happens in a society that doesn’t highly value God? The value of his image is diminished. What happens when a society denies the existence of God? They approve destroying his image even after it’s lying alive on the birthing table. When we value God, we treasure human life. When we don’t value God, we don’t treasure human life.
How does this relate to ethnicities? I hope it’s obvious that all human races and ethnicities share the same image bearing and therefore share the same worth. In fact, science and genome studies have affirmed there is only one human race. Genetically, we are all essentially the same.
Since there is only one human race then what God says about us applies the same to all of us. Here Romans eloquently explains that we all have the same problem:
- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)
- “As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10)
- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
If misery loves company, we all should love each other greatly because we all are dealing with same moral plague. Sin and condemnation by a holy God.
Let that sink in for a moment. Every human being, no matter their age, skin color, or other category, is a soul made for God. Apart from God’s gospel and grace, every soul is destined for hell. That guy on the street, that girl across the hall, that executive, that artist, that mommy. It’s an astonishing and sobering reality. We all share the same problem. Like cancer victims in the cancer ward look at each other through sympathetic eyes, there should be a heart of compassion we feel for every image bearer we come across. We share the same problem, and wonderfully, we share the same solution.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
God’s solution to our problem is not better government or education, it is the cross of Jesus Christ. The ultimate reconciliation is God’s reconciliation with us by sending his Son Jesus. Think about this with me a moment. Aren’t we glad God isn’t a racist? Aren’t we glad divine privilege didn’t keep Jesus from coming to us? Aren’t we astonished that God would move into our neighborhood and love his neighbors? All the things we wish were true in others are completely true in God. He didn’t save from a distance, he saved up close and personal. God is no racist and he came to save the whole human race. If there is a symbol that should represent freedom and justice across all ethnicities it should be the cross of Jesus Christ.
It’s awesome to think that as Jesus hung on the cross, the guilt that he bore was multiethnic guilt. He didn’t just bear the guilt of the Jews. He didn’t just bear the guilt of the Romans. He didn’t just bear the guilt of Middle Eastern people. He bore the guilt of every single skin color and ethnicity that has ever lived. He died a multiethnic, redeeming death, bearing multiethnic sin, including racism, when he died on the cross.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’” (Revelation 7:9–12)
Here is the future for all of God’s people. Heaven is a multiethnic, multicultural, incredibly diverse, redeemed humanity fully united in joy and worship of Christ. The Bible could have just said Christians are around the throne. But notice that it emphasizes the diversity. Every nation. Every tribe. Every people. Every language. Heaven is the perfect reflection of God’s will and God’s will is a diversity of human ethnicity perfectly united in heart and soul.
Now there’s diversity in hell too. But there is no unity. Hell is diverse ethnicity and no love. Diverse ethnicity and no unity. Which is America resembling? Which does your heart resemble? Heaven is the church fulfilled and matured. It began at Pentecost where people from various nations heard the gospel in their own tongue. It continues through the centuries with gospel and evangelism expansion. It is only fulfilled when Christ himself sits on the throne of his kingdom. There we are not citizens of the US or France or Kenya. There we are eternally happy citizens of the eternal kingdom of God.
You do realize you have far more in common with a Chinese or Brazilian Christian than you do with a fellow non-Christian American? And it’s not even close. There are no “Americans” in heaven.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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