Friday, January 8, 2010
The Bible states we were created in God’s image and in His likeness. This phrasing has puzzled man for centuries. Does God have a physical body like ours; arms, legs, a mouth, ears, eyes, etc..? Is it our ability to understand morality, love, and service for others that the text was referring to? Is it our ability to think, to pro-create, that is similar to our Lord’s? Perhaps some combination of all of these, we do not know. With almost equal fascination, man has pondered what exactly God looks like.
Despite our roots in a single set of original parents Adam & Eve, and then again in the re-genesis of Noah and his three sons and family, we tend to think of ourselves as so different from each other. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, to name just a few categories we ‘belong’ to as sub-classifications in our human existence. What does it mean to be African-Black versus Norwegian-White? What is the difference between Korean-Asian and Mexican-Hispanic? Does it matter what God looks like, or what language He prefers to speak?
The differences in language and culture we have today began due to an act of defiance some time after the great flood. Despite a promise from God that He would never flood the world again and the introduction of the rainbow in the sky to remind us of His promise – man did not take long to degenerate into his old ways of embracing evil and breaking trust with God, again. Rather than trust in the word of God, man decided to build a tower so high that any flood could not reach the top of it. God did not get angry and kill everyone who was involved with this project (He is not the bloodthirsty dictator Satan accuses of Him of being throughout the Old Testament). He merely “confounded their tongues,” and introduced the variety we see in each other today. People began searching for others like themselves and eventually migrated across entire continents. Base language dialects evolved with subtle nuisances over time, bringing us to where we are today. God is able to speak once and be heard and understood in the language of everyone (referred to in the New Testament as ‘speaking in tongues’). And the idea that Heaven must only speak English, or Spanish, or Swahili, or Mandarin is probably a bit biased on our part.
Unfortunately, instead of us appreciating our diversity as yet another reflection of the infinite variety God enjoys in His creations, we have elected to see our skin pigmentation, different languages, and strange (i.e. foreign) customs as a reason to judge each other in collective groups. We make categorically false claims based in prejudice and hatred and some extremists have even tried to use scripture as a way of condemning entire races as lost from the possibility of Salvation. There is nothing farther from the truth. Nothing and no-one can ever separate any human being from the Love of our God.
So then the question is posed, does God have His favorites? Quite simply, yes. The reason why Abraham was so favored by God is because Abraham was looking for God. Abraham was unique in his world as he was searching for meaning, this led him to want to reconcile to his God, and this led him to the favor of God. Much the same as Noah, and Enoch were ‘favored’ by God, in that they were willing to get to know God. The same logic applies to us today. Christians are favored by God, as are all who seek to get to know Him. Because of God’s promise to Abraham, his descendents were especially favored in that the Messiah would be born of this lineage. There is a misperception that we sometimes buy into today, that birthright (as with the Jewish heritage) is the only method of gaining the favor of God. The truth is, those willing to listen to God, to give over control of their lives to Him, become His favorites.
Christians are sometimes plagued by the idea that a particular brand of doctrine or religious organization is superior to another, or in worse cases, the only way to reach Heaven. We further subdivide ourselves along theocratic lines, with disagreements about the application or understanding of scripture used as a basis to again judge each other. How sad. The unifying principle of Christianity is Love. As Love is the unifying method of government for the entire universe. Christ was the human example of what ‘love’ truly means. All Christians should be able to unite around this premise at a minimum. The further search for truth should be then grounded in love first, then under the guidance of God, a careful review of Biblical texts as a whole, not out of context, and not with predefined ideas. There should also be a great degree of trust among Christians that God will lead all seekers of truth to truth. He would not allow them to be deceived by a lie, and then simply ‘bless’ the lie.
Investigation of other cultures, habits, art, languages, food, and music to name a few can greatly enrich the student. Everyone who engages in this study will come away with certain things they like and dislike, but their lives will be enriched as a result. No-one can be expected to like everything about another culture, as no-one can truly say they like ‘everything’ about their own culture. Our differences then can give us an even more fulfilling life than we imagine, if we have the tolerance, and interest to begin to understand them and participate in them. This was God’s intent. There was no judgment of particular races that occurred at Babel, simply a further enrichment of variety in our lives, and a formidable distraction from a vain construction effort that would yield no real results.
Evil uses our every difference to try to separate us from each other. We are easier prey when alone, and relying on our own wisdom to meet problems and discern between good and evil. This was Eve’s predicament we discuss in another section. But when we humble ourselves to begin to accept the wisdom of others, grounded in Biblical support, we become very strong as a group. As we meet together and socialize and begin to share our experiences, our thoughts, and the blessings of God in our lives – we begin to strengthen each other, to build each other up. And when we further realize that everyone who participates in this process enriches us all, we begin to value the opinions and experiences of those who are specifically different from ourselves. Men value the counsel of women. The young listen to the old. People being to be patient and start looking for the good in another culture. And where love rules, all of this GREATLY enhances the group as a whole. This principle works equally well in the business world. The ‘best’ advice you can receive in the business world will not come from a group of 10-15 white men in their forties. Rather it would come from a group comprised of 10-15 men and women from different ethnic backgrounds and different ages.
Let us then try to reflect an image of God through our propensity to love others, to embrace others, all others. This is how others will begin to see God within us. For loving and accepting those who are different is a characteristic usually only found in those who have come to know God a bit more…
Posted by Kristian Nelson at 12:03 AM