Imago Dei

By Grace Niewijk CC, Class of ’18

When Jesus was on earth, he spent time with those whom society ignored and considered worthless. Prostitutes, lepers, widows and orphans; sinners, the sick, and the small from every walk of life. He looked at the least of these, called them worthy, and told them that he had come for their sakes.
Who do you think Jesus would spend time with if he came to earth today?
Maybe Jesus would come to sit and grieve with the families and partners of the people who died in the Orlando shooting. Maybe he would empower women of color who fight for social justice even in the face of fierce discrimination. Maybe he would tell black men and boys who fear for their lives that God intends better for them, that he wants to give them so much more than what the world seems to offer. Maybe he would weep with citizens of Baghdad who received so few condolences from the rest of the world after an attack that took hundreds of lives. Our world is bursting at the seams with tired, weary, hurting children of God, and Jesus would not turn his back on their anguish.
How does God call us to confront injustice? How does God call us to act differently in light of our faith?

I find Romans 12:9-21 particularly helpful when trying to figure out how to respond to the brokenness I see in the world, in people around me, and in myself. Paul writes:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,

‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’

To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God is not satisfied with silence in the face of tragedy, hatred, and evil. Too often, silence in the face of injustice is equivalent to passive acceptance. In this scripture, God tells us clearly what we should do: instead of silence, we are called to patience, love, honor, zeal, hospitality, and rejoicing. We are called to be constant in prayer, to bless those who persecute us, to weep with those who are weeping, and to overcome evil with good.
Even when we are not directly affected by adversity or strife, we are still called to stand alongside our brothers and sisters, our enemies and our friends. Imago dei: all are made in the image of God. Knowing this, how can we not strive to see and love others the way God does?

Our God´s very being is justice. In his declaration “Vengeance is mine,” we have assurance that he will see justice done. Jesus didn’t just heal the sick and weep with those who mourned; he also flipped tables in the faces of those who desecrated the temple, called out hypocrites in public, and exhorted countless people to turn from lives of sin. Jesus showed a wide range of emotions in response to the things of this world, but the one reaction he never displayed was apathy. We are the body of Christ. We are his church. When one part of the body is hurting, no other part should be indifferent. I’ve had to repent over and over recently for not caring about others’ pain the way Jesus would. Let us all be challenged to look and see those around us, to try to learn what their struggles are, and do our best to show Christ-like love – even in the face of injustice we don’t understand or tragedy that doesn’t directly affect us.

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