For in one Spirit we were baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12: 13

 

We live in a very diverse world. The mobility that people enjoy has also caused us to rub shoulders with those who come from different ethnic, social, religious, and cultural groups in ways that have never really existed on this scale before. Yet, we are often still uncomfortable with people who differ from us in any significant way. It seems to me that this is at least partly true because many of us also hold onto our perspective on issues and positions on things that matter to us with a certain tenacity that also causes us to be very narrow in our construct regarding who and what is acceptably different or diverse from our point of view. In other words, we are too often closed off to even trying to understand how another person might understand a situation or to entering into the way that they evaluate the world and form their own set of values and priorities. We want everything to be engaged with and lived out as if it were being beheld with our eyes alone.

 

This is not the way that God has intended for us to gain our view of the world. Once we became a diverse collection of people, it became essential for us to find ways to communicate with each other. Language certainly does divide us, but so does culture, race, social status, wealth, power and position, religion, sex, and many other differences. As an observation, it seems that people work especially hard at finding ways to separate ourselves from others rather than seeking out our commonality. We desire to find those points of distinction that we can use to hold us apart from others in a manner that gives us some form of sense of superiority or exclusivity. None of this is an example of human functioning in the way that God intends for us to live. God’s creation design did not have separation along any of these lines except that He made us to exist in two sexes, and even then, there was a beautiful harmony and communication between the man and the woman. So, our differences must also have a purpose in God’s design and plan for the on-going reconciliation of Creation to Creator.

 

Thus, I hold that God wants people to resolve differences and to seek out understanding of others so that we can live peacefully together on the earth. The most powerful and effective way for this to come about is through the commonality of the Spirit of Christ’s presence within everyone who knows Christ. There is a mystical form of union that exists within Christ’s body of faith that should transcend any other differences that exist between us and that can bridge any and all gaps of understanding, perspective, and values that we may hold. Yet, unity within the body of Christ is not the end of what the Lord does for us along these lines, for He also opens up our hearts and our minds to seeking out ways to understand and even to love those who are different from us in that most significant of areas, that of faith in Christ. The Spirit demonstrates to us a form of supernatural love that can lead us to enter into dialogue and even to deep friendship with people who are different from us in every way conceivable. The Spirit within helps us to overcome fear and prejudice, to seek out commonality, and to embrace people from all circumstances and situations as exactly what they essentially are, that is, we are all brothers and sisters in the fact that we are all created in God’s perfect image.

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So God created man in his 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 whole earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Genesis 1: 27, 28

 

How does God view life? This is a question that gets thrown about and discussed a great deal in both religious and in secular circles. It seems that most of the conversation on this topic is focused on the aspect of life as it exists prior to birth, and this is an important part of the definition of life and its value, but it is certainly not the only aspect of this discussion. In fact, I think that the bigger picture conversation regarding God’s view of the value of people is the real starting point for entering into one about the pre-born and how we view those lives. I submit that God cares greatly about each and every person who exists on the earth. There are none that have a greater or a lesser status or that are formed with an inferior make-up or right to be loved, cared about, and embraced as God’s own creation. Every one of us is a descendant of these first people, and as such, each of us has been blessed by the touch of the Creator, Himself, and is devised and formed in a manner that directly reflects that thing that the text calls the “image of God.”

 

If I stop to think about this for a while and ponder it with real consideration of what God is telling us about this valuable work of His own hands, I might begin to view other people differently. Each person that I encounter in any manner is a product of God’s personal workmanship. Every category of people that is defined by human thought and language is also made of individual people who may happen to have certain tangible characteristics or qualities in common but who are each also descendants from this creative beginning. Thus, there are no groups of people who do not deserve to be respected and whose value is less than others in the eyes of God. I believe that caring for all people of this earth is an important part of the responsibility to rule over the earth, this dominion, that God has charged us with doing as our primary calling in dwelling here. Thus, gender, race, religion, nationality, wealth or poverty, sexual identity or orientation, and even personality and temperament are not to be held up as cause for exclusion from engagement in caring for people and for being involved in the well-being of their existences.

 

Admittedly, this sort of involvement is difficult, and caring for people is never easy or simple. This is a hard world, and these are complex times in its history, but God tells us that we can turn to Him and that we can rely upon His wisdom, grace, strength, and provision during all of the hard times and with each of our difficult challenges in all aspects of life and living. Yet, God is clear on this, and He holds each moment of every life as precious and the existence of that life as above and beyond our authority to decide or determine. Human life and its duration are God’s to decide. This is a badly broken world, and there is violence and sinful disregard for God’s law of peace running loose in all corners of our planet. Although, God would have us turn to Him and rely upon His ability to heal all forms of hurts and settle every type of disagreement, there are times when people with destructive intent are present among us, and they require force and even violence to hold them in check. I hold that even these acts of self-defense and preservation run against God’s desire and will, but they are also covered by grace, forgiveness, and understanding on the part of the Creator. As to the loudest topic in this arena of the value of life, it seems clear to me that the unborn are people who are created and formed by God in His image, they have no capacity to speak for or to defend themselves, and their protection is of paramount importance in our God given mandate to rule justly over all of the earth.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Ephesians 2: 13, 14

 

Christ is all about the resolution of conflict. His presence brings into existence the reconciliation of people who have developed long-standing and very deep differences that have often grown into animosity. Although Paul is discussing the division of humanity into two groups, Jews and Gentiles, that was at the center of his world, I think that we can apply the same fundamental principles to other forms of human separation and categorical stress. The reasons for these differences are real, and they have often been developed over long periods of time. They are not easy to resolve, and they may seem to be completely beyond any possibility of finding commonality or of entering into true peace. Yet, Christ is the worker of these sorts of impossibilities.

 

What is perhaps even more remarkable is the way that the Lord does so much of this reconciliatory work. As Jesus went to His death on that highly divisive implement of torture and execution, the cross, He was effectuating the destruction of all that is divisive in our world. That might seem to be highly debatable in that followers of Christ and people who hold other religious beliefs or lack of them have been in conflict since those early days of the Christian church. Yet, Christ, through His death and resurrection, has given all people the means by which we can come into a common relationship with God, our Creator and the Sovereign King of the Universe. Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin that all people deserve, and He also cast aside all of the rules and systems of belief that create dividing walls to segregate off small portions of our world, one from another.

 

We may not speak the same language, and we certainly do not all look the same or practice life in the same style and manner. But all people can know the same God, and we can recognize His creative hand in and on each of us. Humanity, in the aggregate of all that we are, is the full and the nearly total picture of that image of God in which we were formed and shaped. So too, in Christ, all that forces us into separation and division is taken to the cross of sacrifice, and resolution of these differences is to be found in our own willingness to follow Christ into the new life of eternal hope and peace for our souls that He grants to all who enter into relationship with Him. We are no longer identified as Jew and Gentile, Asian, African, or Caucasian, female or male, native born or foreigner, or by any other of our myriad divisions and differences. In Christ, we have been brought near to God; so, we have also been brought by Christ to share a common table of grace and to speak the same language of peace.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Matthew 26: 39

 

Jesus was feeling distress and all-encompassing emotional agony. The depth of His suffering at this time is beyond all human imagining. I think that it must have approximated the sort of grief that God, the Father, feels when we, His beloved and handcrafted creation, rebel and reject Him. Now Jesus was not just a man, for He was also God dwelling on earth in the form of a human; so, He retained an extraordinary ability to understand the Father’s ways and His will. Yet, even Jesus recognized that He was living in submission to the will of the Father. In this moment of greatest distress, Jesus can speak in an open and utterly honest manner to God without setting out even one note of opposition to the plan and the will of the Father. Jesus remained committed to doing exactly what God had set out for Him to do.

 

I do not possess understanding, strength of character, or the sort of courage that Jesus demonstrated. I certainly am not God in any sense except for one. God, in His creative outworking of my own personal and individual creation, made me in substance and in form after His own image. He imparted a soul into me as He breathed the life that infuses every cell of my body into my existence. In doing this God granted to me capability and capacity for understanding and for living out the direction and the nature of His will. Every person is granted this same God-image nature as a part of her or his own existence. The essential difference for each of us comes about in the absence of the presence of Christ within our being. Without Christ’s Spirit people live in an unfulfilled or a partial form of God’s design intent. In this state we are required to utilize our own strength, understanding, and wisdom as the outer limits of our capability and capacity.

 

However, in Christ, we are granted these same essential qualities but they come to us from the source in God, Himself. As we yield ourselves to Christ, His Spirit works to shape each of us into more of the person that God intends for us to be. We do not lose our individuality or our uniqueness in this process. Rather, we grow and develop into that specifically and specially crafted person that God’s creative intent devised for each of us from conception. This is the point and the place where God’s will becomes most clearly expressed in human lives. As we surrender ourselves and yield control of our lives to Christ, we are set free from many of the constraints that sin has placed upon us. We are free to follow God’s will for life and for living it in service to Him. In Christ, we enter into the strength and the willing capability to say with our Lord, “Father, not as I will, but as you will.”

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

1 Peter 3: 8

 

There is one very important thing that should distinguish God’s people from the rest of our world. Followers of Christ are to be like Him; that is, we are to live in a manner that is closer than others do to the way that God intended for people to live in His original design for creation. When God made people in His image, the significant aspects of that crafting were not a strong chin or a commanding voice; rather, the deeper qualities of character were what truly mattered. We were to be loving, merciful, gracious, kind, gentle, and understanding with each other. We were also to be humbly submitted to God’s authority and mutually submitted to each other in much the same manner as that great and complex relationship that exists between the three persons of God.

 

It is in likeness of this relationship wherein Father, Son, and Spirit each operate in vital and powerful ways while they are still one being as God that people are called upon to live. This means that we each have special and even specific gifts and talents that we are given by God. We also possess interests and passions that drive us into the development and the utilization of all that God granted to us. Additionally, in what might be viewed as divine perversity but what is probably more simply an outworking of the great range of expression of that God image, we humans are a wildly diverse lot. Since we also have existed and continue to dwell in a world where sin and evil operate as an intentionally disruptive force, God’s gift of diversity has been turned into tension, distrust, and violence so that the ordained unity of people is disrupted and broken.

 

In response to the destruction of relationship and so of creation, itself, God the Father sent Jesus the Christ into this world. He calls all people out of our isolation, fear, and distrust and into the peaceful harmony of life within God’s kingdom of truth, grace, and healing love. Followers of Christ are to be different from our neighbors because we are to be unified in ways that are strange and even mysterious to the rest of our world. In Christ we are called into a form of oneness that is formed in our spirits and that should become the passion of our hearts as we know God and come to understand His desire for us to live in true unity. If we are to dwell fully as people who exist in that God image design of our creation, then there is ample opportunity for us to be different and to express our uniqueness, but there is no room for us to allow those differences to divide or to disrupt our unity in Christ.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8: 31

 

The idea that God is with or for particular people, groups, nations, or causes is one that forms the foundation of hopes, wishes, and motivates actions. It has been a battle cry and a rationale that is set out in defense of human endeavors that range from the noble to the outrageous. So, what does it mean for God to be for people, and who are those people?

 

First off, it seems to me that God has always been for us. All people are a part of His creation, and we are that specially crafted portion of creation that was made in the image of our Creator. He breathed His life, our souls, into us and entered into a form of relationship with us that is utterly unique. Even in our rebellious and willful rejection of God’s rightful authority and rule, God set out a perfect and complete plan for salvation and for restoration. The Lord has never waivered from this plan, and He has never stopped pursuing each and every one of us. Still we humans are not easy to love and to nurture. We allow fear to motivate our thoughts and actions, and we treat people who are different from us as inferiors or as enemies.

 

None of this is pleasing to God, for nothing in these thoughts and actions is based in His will or upon His Word. So, I think that God is for all people in the sense that He desires for all to know Him by entering into a relationship with Christ. He is also for those who know Christ in that our motives, confidence in life, and capacity to love others are reflections of His character and are founded in our engagement with His Spirit. So, it would seem that God is truly for us as we set aside our personal aspirations and desires and yield our lives fully to Christ’s will. God desires for His people to be reconcilers, to be peacemakers, and to engage with our whole beings in His redemptive work in our world.