Imago Dei

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the bitter racial tension that has run across our country in recent weeks. Having grown up in the 1960s, the civil rights marches, riots, and the struggle for equality are indelibly etched in my mind.

Today’s marches and outpouring of anger have made me think even more deeply about the issue of racism itself. And I’ve come to believe that at the core of racism there is one defining issue.

But before I get to that it’s vital to understand what racism really is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, racism is:

“A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

So someone who is racist harbors in their heart a belief that their race is inherently superior. That they are intrinsically better than another human being.

This belief is straight from the pit of hell, and here’s why.

It starts with creation itself. In Genesis 1:26, God says this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….'”. Whoa. Did you catch that? Mankind is not like the animals or any other part of creation. But rather mankind is stamped with God’s image.

This point is driven home in Genesis 2:7 and 21-22, where we read:

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being…. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

Note carefully that God personally handcrafted both man and woman. All other creation was spoken into being. In every other instance the Bible tells us, “And God said…. And it was so.” “And God said…. And it was so.”

That is until He got to mankind. As quoted above, scripture records, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness….'”. And He carefully crafted both man and woman by His own hand.

This means that the primary determinant of each person’s traits and capacity is not their race. But the fact that each person bears God’s image.

All of mankind. Every single person, regardless of race.

This is the Imago Dei… the image of God that every human bears. And this is what makes each and every human equal to each other.

The powerful truth is, God established equality at the moment of creation. And that equality was formed by each human bearing His image. No exception. If you are human, you bear His image and are equal to every other human being.

So what does this mean?

Equality is an inherent and permanent human condition that marks God’s creation. That means racism is a perversion of God’s created order and is an afront to God Himself.

Which brings me to the other reason racism is from the pit of hell.

At its core, racism is pride. It is believing you are better than someone else. But it is the worst form of pride as it puts one in God’s place by casting judgment on the value of another human being, who is the handiwork of God alone.

Scripture is clear that Satan’s fall came because of the sin of pride. As Isaiah 14:13-14 records:

“But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”

In essence, what Satan is saying is, “I am better than all creation. In fact, I am an equal with God.”

When we judge another human as inferior to us, we follow in Satan’s footsteps. We make ourselves “like the Most High.” We exalt ourselves above others and sit in judgment of them, placing ourselves as an equal to God believing we can make a judgment that is God’s alone.

And God’s judgment is that each and every person is equal because He has made each person in His image.

God’s word is so clear. He hates pride. And the depth of pride that would express itself in the demeaning of another human is especially heinous. As Psalm 101:4-5 says,

“The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.”

This is God’s standard. Not to tolerate “haughty eyes” or “a proud heart.” And racism is the most odious form of a proud heart. It is slander in its most vile form as it strips away the truth that each person bears the image of God, and therefore slanders God Himself.

God is clear. As He states in Proverbs 8:13, “I hate pride and arrogance….” And yes, racism is the most evil expression of pride.

Imago Dei. God’s image. Being formed in that image is what makes you and me and every other person on earth equal. But the one thing that will tear that down is our personal pride and arrogance, believing we are somehow better.

May God grant us the clarity to see in each other the equality of His design and the humility to embrace one another as God’s children, each and every one handcrafted in His image.

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