“So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

— Genesis [1:27]

 

IMAGO DEI

George  was raised in a wealthy home and went to Harvard. Instead of studying economics or business, he pursued a path of social advocacy. He eventually graduated with a master’s in Social Work. From there, with his wife, he started an organization called Street Squash, a program that provided inner city youth with access to college. The sport of squash was used to add an advantageous credit for the young people when applying to college, but it was not the primary focus of Street Squash. The students were provided with a place to go after school and study. They had tutors and visited college campuses. The goal was to create access for a segment of our population that needed a head start. George could have been a great investment banker, but chose instead a life of helping.

From his kitchen table George built an organization that has sent thousands of youth to college. And he has helped in the establishment of fourteen other programs throughout the country.   The graduation rate of students from these programs is substantially higher than national statistics. The youth from Street Squash achieve an almost 90 percent graduation rate. Without Street Squash, their chances were 15 percent. George only sees goals. He only sees that the youth are people. He knew that squash gave the students athletic content for their college résumés, and he knew Squash would help him with fund-raising.

“George reflects the Imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.”

Today’s verse comes from the book of Genesis and reflects the earliest statement from God on how humankind is viewed. We are all made in the image of God. Theologians call this Imago Dei. In today’s world of labeling from all corners,  people like George gets lost in the din of noise about racism, liberalism, conservatism, misogyny, and all the other labels we use to describe one another. Our news media encourages labeling because it increases viewership, which in turn increases revenue. All at the expense of the imago Dei. I know George and wish he was better known by others. George reflects the imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.

“There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God.”

In this time of great divide between all the various factions, it is important for us to reflect on what God means with the image of God. There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God. When we label, we diminish the intent of God. The solution to this great divide is turning back to God’s original intent and away from the commercialization of labels.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we see people when we first meet them?

What does the imago Dei look like?

How do we feel when we are labeled?

 

 

“All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner”

— Luke [19:70]

 

HANGING OUT WITH JESUS

I remember meeting Rudy Rasmus in a private room with a bishop of the United Methodist Church. He was a talker. He had stories that were riveting, about his past, his ministry, and the poor. He is a pastor for a Methodist church in Houston, but prior to that he had run a bordello. He would admit he was a sinner. He’d come to face Jesus and turned his life around. After passing his tests to become a pastor, he was given a church in one of the poorest sections of Houston. The church had nine members. Undaunted he moved forward with this small church. In a move of pure faith and to get more people to come his church, he started paying one dollar to anyone who would show up.

Today, the church Rudy serves is over nine thousand people strong. Thirty percent of the people were previously homeless. And it is one of the most culturally diverse churches in the country. Rudy attributes the success of the church he pastor’s, to the fact that it contains a group of people who embrace the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, racism, and sexism and building bridges to experience Christ. The church feeds the poor. Builds housing for the homeless. All through a nonprofit called the Bread of Life. The church and Rudy have changed the landscape in downtown Houston. Rudy doesn’t usually preach these days; he leaves that up to the other ministers. Instead he greets church attendees at the door and welcomes them. 

“For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences.”

In today’s verse we hear people grumbling that Jesus was going to be a house guest of a sinner. This was a frequent activity of Jesus. He dined with sinners. He stayed at their houses. He spent his time in the Judean marketplace helping all who worked there. Jesus views each person as equal. He even converted women of ill repute. Everyone was worthy of God. For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences. We are all God’s people. Jesus hung out with everyone. 

“We are all God’s people.”

When we see a poor person on the street, do we walk to the other side? Do we judge a person or try to understand their circumstance? It is hard to engage on a sincere basis when we meet someone in a situation different than our own. It is hard to not be wary or judgmental. We all wrestle with the idea of hanging out with those who come from a different social stratum. But we don’t know their journey to this point. Perhaps they were once where we are. Perhaps their circumstance arises from an abusive home situation or poor choices from the past. Perhaps they are grappling with a serious medical ailment. Perhaps they were abandoned by their families. We all have one important thing in common: We are all God’s people.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we approach new people in our lives?

What judgments do we make?

Can we see God in every person?

 

 

“But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

– Matthew [5:39]-41

 

PERSPECTIVE

How many of us have been cut off in traffic and replied in anger? Is there a person at work who is constantly irritating us? How often have we started our day and been sidetracked by someone else? These moments test our Christian beliefs. These are the moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts. In today’s verse Jesus says to reward our offenders. Jesus wants us to show love not hate. In these moments, Jesus wants us to elevate our Christian beliefs. He wants us to have a perspective of being positive and helping the world.

“The moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts.”

For every negative reaction we get, perhaps we should add a moment of grace to someone else’s life. What if we tried to go to bed every night having done more good than bad that happened to us? What if we went to bed having returned every act of kindness to us with one more to someone else? Today, Jesus is asking us to not engage with retaliation, but with the spirit of God. By doing this we stopping a cycle that can only spin downward.

When we are wronged, there might be an underlying reason that needs our compassion. Perhaps the person who cut us off is late for work or has already had a bad start to his or her day. Perhaps the person who irritates us is in need of affirmation of his or her being. We can never know the real reason for bad behavior, but if we are empathetic we can see the possibilities.

“Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God.”

Jesus is asking us to change our perspective. Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God. Life diverts us from this image. It causes us to move away from our intended purpose. Remembering that we are all made in the image of God changes our perspective. We assign more respect and sympathy to those who are struggling. We become helpers. As Christians, this is perhaps our hardest task. To rise above feeling victimized and slighted. To put on our suit of Christian armor in the face of anger.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

With whom do we need to be more charitable?

Do we see the image of God in people?

How do we find the good in people?