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.

So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

Joshua 11: 23

 

This is a bloody and gruesome chapter in the recitation of a series of similar events during the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership. There is simply no escaping the brutal nature of these events except perhaps by considering all of this as some form of allegory, but I believe that this is a rendering of historical events. This is what actually happened. It is only from that perspective that I hold that there is also an allegorical application to it all. These were battles that God sent His people out to fight against others who were extremely hardened in their attitudes toward God. They were going to resist the Lord with all of their beings and for as long as time would run. These events occurred in a specific time and place, and they are not at all indicative of how God works in our world today.

 

The Lord has not ordered anyone or any group of people to go forth and wage war against others. The wars that we fight, whether we can justify them or not, are the result of the sort of sinfulness in our world that the Lord was directing the Israelites to eradicate from their land in the time of Moses and Joshua. All violence in our world has its source in the evil that has attempted to overcome God’s perfect plan of creation. Depending upon how an individual views things in this regard, there may be times when a violent response to an aggressive act or the intent to commit one is justified and is even Godly. I am not entering into a discussion of these ideas; however, I am saying that in God’s original creation plan and in His restored one at the end of time there is no violence, no war.

 

So, it seems to me that discussing briefly how this passage is allegorical might be worth taking on. There is a harsh reality to our world today that is very similar to the one that the Israelites faced, for God is opposed by people, both individually and in organized groups, throughout the world. There is almost nowhere that we can go where this is not true. As followers of Christ we are, like Joshua, called upon and tasked by Christ to go forth and to wage a fearless campaign for the reclamation of the world around us. We do not fight with swords but rather with love, grace, mercy, and truth. Christ doesn’t direct us to drive people out and to eradicate the record of their existence; rather, He sends us out to befriend people whose beliefs are different from ours, to share life and the truth of the Gospel of Christ with them, and to seek peaceful means of resolving our disputes and conflicts. In Christ we have God’s complete and total plan for the restoration to salvation of our world. This is the battle that our Lord is calling upon us to fight every day of our lives.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 7

 

We want to think of peace as the total cessation of all conflict. Our minds imagine this ideal status and apply it to every area of stress and struggle that we encounter during our days. Much like the voices of optimism that shout out “Peace in our time!” at the end of a large-scale war, we would like to be able to actually claim that the end of all conflict and pain is at hand, and that our efforts and sacrifice have made this dream-peace into reality. However, peace in our world will remain illusive, and conflict, pain, and death are our companions for the journey through our days on earth.

 

Yet, there is peace to be known in this world. Christ brought it into our atmosphere with Him, and He granted the gift of it to His people. In knowing Christ we have a form of hope that goes far beyond anything that human treaty or scientific discovery can provide. We possess a calm that is greater than any earthly storm. We can enter into faith in the loving grace and mercy of the Creator of all. His care and concern for our hearts, minds, and souls is tangible. Even when there is body-numbing pain present in and around me, God’s presence is real and His comfort deeply reassuring.

 

The broken nature of this world is very active in its attempts to draw our eyes away from the source of our confidence and strength in Christ. Circumstances and times of global violence, racial and ethnic hatred, relational discord, and personal suffering and loss will seek to gain the center of our focus and primacy in our hearts. These are difficult situations and seemingly unbearable circumstances that everyone will encounter. Yet, it is in these times that Christ makes the most sense as He provides both the wisdom to grasp the reality of what it means to live in a world that is perishing beneath the weight of sin, and He grants to His followers a hope for now and for the eternal future that makes all of the strife and struggle of this life into nothing more than a momentary episode in an unending story of existence in the presence of the Lord.

 

Though an army encamp against me,

my heart shall not fear;

though war arise against me,

yet I will be confident.

Psalm 27: 3

 

David knew what war looked like. He knew it in every sense that it could be experienced in his days, for he had engaged in the battle against nations that desired to overthrow Israel and he had encountered individuals who sought to destroy him personally. David also understood the deep, soul-wrenching fight that can come about inside of a person’s own mind and spirit. Some of the armies that set up camp opposite him were great in number with their array of swords, arrows, and battle horses; and sometimes the opposing army was a single person with a spear that is hurled in a rage. At other times the conflict is waged on that rough field of the mind. Yet, in all of these situations, the war and its terrors are real.

 

We live in a world where conflict and war are a part of the narrative of our days. There is a frightening uncertainty to life today that is all but impossible to avoid; however, God still says that we are to seek His face and not fear. The assailants that most of us encounter are carrying a different sort of weapon than those who confronted David. They are often armed with words that describe us in negative terms, with laws that restrict or redefine our actions, and with threats of loss in the workplace and in relationships. Although the engagements that result in this conflict don’t draw literal blood, they do shed the blood of our spirits and wound our hearts and minds.

 

Fear of physical harm from violence of all types is real and is best engaged with by turning to the Lord and in trust of His care and protection for all that actually matters. These other sources of fear are far more prevalent for most of us, and they are frequently the sort of thing that Satan uses in an attempt to disable and defeat followers of Christ. So it seems that David’s thoughts about engaging the battles of life with confident fearlessness still apply to our days and to the landscape of our cultural battlefields. David’s response to his enemies was to turn to the Lord, to cry out to God and surrender his cares, fears, and concerns to Him; then, he listened to God’s words of wise counsel, comfort, and encouragement; finally, David recognized that he was just a servant to the Great King. So, the victory was certain and the victor in each and every conflict will be the Lord.