The Biblical View of Humanity in a Time of Racial Tension
Currently we are working through a series of sermons entitled “ONE.” The goal of this series is to gain a biblical view of humanity in a time of racial tension. Last week we considered that the Bible teaches that all humanity is one blood. We looked at a statement made by the Apostle Paul to the philosophers of Athens when he said, “And He (God) has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” (Acts 17.26)
Without mentioning his source, Paul teaches the creation account of Genesis and states that God is man’s creator. (Gen.2.7) In this short statement Paul underscores the truth that the Creator of all things in general is the Creator of humanity in particular. And furthermore, out of one man, Adam, God made every nation to dwell on the face of the earth. This means that all of humanity is related to one another and there is no room for ideas of racial superiority.
Today our focus is on the topic of “One Image.” In the opening pages of Scripture we find the beautiful account of creation where is the space of six days God made all things from nothing. “Ex nihilo” “Out of nothing.” In chapter one of Genesis we see God speaking into existence light, the sky and dry land. He spoke into existence the seas, plants, and trees. He uttered into existence the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. He proclaimed into existence all the creatures that live in the sea or fly in the sky and all the animals that roam the earth. In poetic form the Bible tells us that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. (Heb.11.3) But near the end of chapter one of Genesis this divine poem was interrupted with a divine dialog. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1.26-27) The pattern of expression used in the beginning of chapter one, “God said, ‘Let there be,’” noticeably changes to, “God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” The divine activity of creation takes a pause for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit to conduct a solemn counsel together concerning the creation of their crowning act – the creation of humanity! Everything that God had created up to this point was in preparation to this crowning act – the creation of humanity!
Only man did God formed with His own hands. Only man did God breathe into his nostrils the breathe of life. Only man did God give dominion over all of creation. Only man did God enter into a covenant relationship. But above all of these truths, is the reality that God created humanity in His image, according to His likeness. This is what distinguished humanity from the rest of creation. We are made in His image according to His likeness. A close look at this phrase “in Our image, according to Our likeness” shows the uniqueness of man’s creation. The word “image” means, “to cut” or “to carve.” Therefore, man was unique from the rest of creation because God Himself “carved” the man with His own hands, instead of speaking man into existence. But the word “likeness” means “to be like.” Therefore, only humanity shares in the likeness of God.
Theologians call our likeness to God “communicable attributes.” We all understand that there are certain attributes that belong exclusively to God. Only God is infinite. Only God is eternal. Only God is unchangeable being the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. These are what theologians call incommunicable attributes. We will never share these incommunicable attributes with God. But the attributes that show that we are created in the likeness of God are seen in the communicable attributes such as our desire for knowledge, for wisdom, for justice, goodness, and truth. Communicable attributes are what sets humanity apart from the rest of creation. Understanding that man was created in God’s image according to God’s likeness gives us a proper way to view humanity, the proper understanding of human dignity, and the need to respect all people regardless of race or nationality. This is the biblical view of humanity.
The Communicable has been Corrupted
But since the fall of Adam the communicable attributes given to us by God have been corrupted. Our reflection as image bearers has been blemished. Love is tainted with hate. Knowledge is contaminated by worldly philosophies. Goodness is polluted by jealousy. Truth is spoiled by personal opinion. And the outcome of this corruption is seen in the way we treat one another. We seek justice by committing or condoning acts of injustice. We seek goodness while committing or condoning acts of violence. We seek mutual respect while committing or condoning disrespectful actions towards others. Don’t you see that we live in a broken and fracture world. Like a broken mirror gives a distorted reflection of who we are, so our fallen condition has shattered our reflection as image bearers of God.
Instead of viewing humanity as equal image bearers we make distinctions among ourselves and become judges with evil motives. (Js.2.4) Instead of valuing all humanity the same we consider other races or cultures as less valuable and esteem our own race and culture as superior. We make ourselves judges over others with the evil motive to rule over them. But the Bible teaches that showing partiality against others is sin. (Js.2.9)
Brothers and sisters, things ought not be this way. Why? Because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. The Bible tells us to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mt.22.39; Rom.13.9; Gal.5.14; Js.2.8) Do you see the equality in this commandment? The way I love myself is the some way I should love my neighbor. We all nourish and cherish ourselves. So, we should nourish and cherish others in the same way regardless of race or nationality. Why? Because we are all equal image bearers of God. Brothers and sisters, love does no wrong to a neighbor regardless of our neighbor’s race or nationality. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the royal law. (Rom.13.10; Js.2.8) It comes down to the basic teaching of Christ who taught us, “However you want people to treat you, so treat them.” (Mt.7.14) Why? Because we are all fellow image bearers of God.
Renewed in the Image of the One who Created Us
The reflection of God’s divine image and likeness in humanity has been distorted but not removed. Fallen humanity is bad but we are not always as bad as we could be. But for those of us who are in Christ we should be seeking the Lord to renew in us the image of the One who created us. A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Col.3.10-11) Christians should reflect the image and likeness of God for the entire world to see. The Apostle Paul challenges us all to behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord so that we will be transformed from glory to glory and every Christian should accept that challenge. (2Cor.3.18)
So, how can we do that? How can we be renewed from glory to glory in the image of the One who created us? Let me first say that we need to understand that God has predestined us to become conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom.8.29) The purpose for God calling you to Himself was for you to be conformed into the image of His Son. See you, Jesus was the exact representation of the Father’s nature. (Heb.1.3) So when we talk about being “conformed into the image of Christ” we are talking about being holy, loving, good, merciful, gracious, faithful, truthful, patient, and wise like Christ. The more gracious I become towards others the more I reflect the image of Christ to the world. The more loving I become towards others the more I reflect the image and likeness of God to the world. Why did God predestine me? Why did God call me? Why did God justify me? God predestine me, called me, and justified me so I would be conformed to the image of His Son to reflect the image and likeness of God to a broken and fractured world.
Let me explain how we reflect God’s image and likeness to a fallen world. As believers in Christ we need to understand that God created us with the attribute of love so that we can be a reflection of His love to others. God didn’t and doesn’t show us love because we are lovable. God shows us love because He is all loving. God is love. (IJn.4.8) Therefore, God calls us to love the unlovable. Why? Because that is what God has done for us and we are to reflect His image and likeness. A wonderful place to discover God’s love and how we should reflect His love to others is in the epistle of First John. Let me share a couple of verse with you.
We know love by this, that He (Jesus) laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (IJn.3.16) See the connection between Jesus loving laying down His life and our reflection of God’s love by laying loving down our lives for the brethren.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (IJn.4.10-11) See the connection between God’s love for us in sending His Son and our reflection of God’s love by loving one another.
We need to understand that God created us with the attribute of justice so that we can show justice to others. God refers to Himself as a “father to the fatherless and the protector of widows” and God desires that we reflect His paternal care to others. (Ps.68.4-5) Coming to the defense of the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised is a reflection of what God did for us through Christ. This is why the Apostle James can say, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” (Js.1.27) You see to visit orphans and widows in their distress is a reflection of God to the world. As Jesus told us, “to the extent that you do it to the least of these, you did it to Me.” (Mt.24.40) We are called to be the light of the world and a city set on a hill. We are called to let our light shine before men in such a way that they see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. (Mt.5.14-16)
As believers we need to understand that God created us with the attribute of mercy so that we would show mercy to others. Jesus told us, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk.6.36) Our God is merciful and has created us to show mercy as a reflection of His image and likeness. The Apostle John asks, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (IJn.3.17) And he continues, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (IJn.3.18) As God’s children, we ought to reflect His mercy upon those within our sphere of influence. Those of us who have more than enough of our daily bread must open our hearts to show mercy to those who are begging for theirs. And I thank God that as a church Christ Covenant has always sought to reflect God justice and mercy to others.
I thank God that this church has supported five boys in Haiti for the past several years. These boys would tell you that God has provided for their education, housing, and daily food through the gracious giving of Christ Covenant. We are merciful just as our Father is merciful. We are a reflection of His image and His likeness.
Hopefully this last week you were able to read email from El Shaddai of Grace Church in Naples about the Joseph family who both parents were laid off from their employment due to the virus. The leadership of El Shaddai of Grace were praying for the Joseph family but we were unable to provide any financial help. But God answered their prayers through the generosity given by CCC Martha Ministry Fund! We are merciful just as our Father is merciful. We are a reflection of His image and His likeness.
The point is that love, justice, and mercy are communicable attributes given by God to humanity that have been shattered by sin but can be renewed as we seek the Lord to renew His image and likeness in us through Christ.
As I shared with you last week the idea for this series came after witnessing the racial tensions that have emerged in the last couple of months and the racial tensions that have plagued our country for centuries. As believers in Jesus Christ we are called to submit ourselves to God’s Word and God’s Word tells us that all of humanity was made in the image and likeness of God. Our God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous without distinction or partiality. (Mt.5.45) And we should be a reflection of our God in a fallen world. To the evil and the good. To the righteous and the unrighteous. And to do that takes a mighty work of God in us. Let us be a church that reflects God’s love, justice, and mercy to everyone regardless of race or nationality. For if we only love those who look like us, how are we any different from the world? And if we only welcome those who welcome us, aren’t we behaving just like the world? (Mt.55.46-47) We all come from One Blood. We all share One Image. And we all make One Family. So let’s behave like the church and have a biblical view of humanity.
Call to Prayer
Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Col.3.10 NIV)