January 5, 2015

Loving God, loving others

Reading the Bible and considering the pride of man and the humble service of Jesus Christ is layering new significance to familiar verses.

For instance, God created man in His image and because this is so, human beings are precious to Him. We are not like the sparrow (which He also cares for), nor are we like apes, or any other created thing. We are like God, reflecting who He is imperfectly because the reflection is so often marred and muddied by our sin, yet still reflecting Him. This is our identity.

For this reason, God says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6) This is the opposite of “love thy neighbor” even though both are based on the same thing. That is, because God made people in His image, I am to love them and not harm them. They are not God, only His reflection, yet my attitude and actions toward them is also a reflection of my love for God.

This makes more sense when I look in the mirror and am pleased with what I see. It isn’t the image in the mirror that makes me smile, but the person that is looking in the mirror. When I look at anyone else, I am looking at the reflected image of God. Their sin may block most of it, and I do not need to love the sin, but I can look deeper and care for them because of God’s image forming their identity.

I’m also reminded today of the equality of human beings. We talked with someone today who seemed to be impressed by those who have a great deal of money and can afford many expensive trinkets. I smiled and reminded him that the people who die with the most toys are still dead. But I cannot feel superior with that attitude for I have placed education and wisdom near the top of my value scale. Solomon has something to say about that . . .

“What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise? And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool!” (Ecclesiastes 2:15–16)

Those who die with the most degrees, even the greatest wisdom, are still dead. Instead, God says this: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)

God is not impressed with anyone’s IQ, and with that He instructs me concerning favoritism concerning those who have brains and wisdom. He also rebukes me for often having a lesser regard for those farther down the scale. He reminds me to consider what has become the Golden Rule: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Again, Jesus reminds me that following Him and loving others like He loves them could mean the loss of everything. When a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus responded, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19–20) Following Jesus can mean having nothing, even being considered a fool.

Being like Jesus and loving God by loving others is not a romantic notion that would “look good on my resume” nor is it a light decision. Instead, it could be very costly.

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