Have you ever spent time with someone and afterward just felt very happy to be you? You knew you were loved, no matter what, & your name was “safe” in their mouth? It’s true of all of us: when I like being me around you, I like you. This is the natural impact of a person of honor. Considering the sorts of people who were drawn to Jesus, & how many were, I think it’s fair to say that Jesus was a person of honor.
When I like being me around you, I like you.
As people following close behind in his dust-trail – disciples – we are called to be the same. How does that play out?
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26a & 27a (ESV)
I played soccer throughout Middle & High School. Our team wasn’t the greatest, but we played hard, & whenever we won a trophy I treasured it. Now, if you had snuck into my room with a baseball bat & smashed one of my trophies, we would “have words”. Why should I be so mad? The trophy is cheap plastic – it’s worth almost nothing, in-and-of itself. But it’s valuable to me because it was an “image” – it represented my effort – my triumphs – it brought to mind those relationships & the time we spent together working towards a common goal.
That’s precisely what the word “image” means here.
Back in ancient Egypt & the surrounding territories where Moses (the suggested author of Genesis) lived, they had Pharaohs & Emperors who ruled the lands. They didn’t have TVs, or Billboards to post political ads about changes in leadership – they had “images” – statues on every important place, street corner, & the major intersections. Those statues were to remind you who’s kingdom you were in, who was in charge, and whose you were. His face was carved into wood, or stone, shaped from gold, or sometimes mere clay.
EVERY PLACE you saw an image of the Emperor it was as good as if the Emperor had been standing there saying “THIS IS MINE!” It stood as a constant reminder of who he was, and who you were in relationship to him – it represented his sovereignty, power, and authority, and whatever you did to that image, you might as well have done it to him.
Yet, an image was replaceable. The image was normally just clay or stone (it’s interesting, then, that Adam was made from mud) – on rare occasion they were made of more valuable metals and such, but even then…it’s not what an image is made of that makes them valuable – it’s who and what the image represents that determines it’s worth.
When you look upon another person, they are to act as a reminder of God – that they are His, that this is all His – to you. As much as you may not like me – no matter how you feel about me – I am a reminder of God to you…and you are to me the same!
But here’s the real tricky part – let’s tease this out a bit. If I am a reminder of God for you, when you attack me it’s just as if you were taking a beautiful statue of your ruling Pharaoh, Emperor, King – or President – & bashed it to pieces before their eyes. When you make fun of or speak badly about one of God’s images, you might as well take that beautiful statue of God & paint it ugly colors – deface it for the whole world to see.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40
Earlier in Matthew 25 it lists categories of people who are “the least”: hungry; thirsty; naked. Who of us hasn’t ever had need? Who of us hasn’t even been “naked”, when others are dragging our names through the mud, & we need someone to stand up for us – to cover us?
When I read “the least” here, I don’t only think about “folks that are really bad off” – I think about all of us. At times, any one of us could be “the least”.
Consider the greatest commandment; “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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke 10:27
According to Jesus your neighbor is the last person on Earth you think deserves to be treated neighborly. Treat that person exactly as you want to be treated! We are called to recognize God – both by creation or by re-creation – in each other, & to love Him BY loving one another.
What does that mean for us now?
Always assume the best – speak the best – offer the best – & treat them the best.
Don’t slander, harshly criticize, judge, bicker, or back-bit others. God is in them! Always assume the best – speak the best – offer the best – & treat them the best. We should be a people who recognize God-qualities in others, & call the GOLD out of them. We should be people in whose mouth other names can be trusted, choosing not to speak slanderously, even when we may think we have reason to.
If we do this, we’ll see world-change all around us: His Kingdom coming – His will being done… on Earth as it is in Heaven.