Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Objectifying the Image of God

'And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image."'               Genesis 9:5-6    ESV

This is not an article on capital punishment, but on the reason God gives for its initiation in the days immediately after The Flood. God established a causal link between retribution and the nature of the victim when he offered the reason for its enactment. Spilling the blood of man (killing) was answerable to God without exception (animals included) because each and every human was made in God's image. Man, in what could appear to be a self-referencing inconsistency, would be the agency through which the retribution was taken.

It seems clear to me that the Image of God in which every human being is made is what makes every person valuable to God. The concept is introduced at the very beginning of the Bible as it talks about the very beginning of the human race. It refers to mankind being "cut out" to resemble God. Since God is not corporeal, neither are the salient features of the image of God in mankind.

People resemble God, not in their physical makeup, but in their metaphysical makeup--we resemble his personhood.

Whenever we look at another person, God is there behind the veil. Behind the physical, somewhat apart from the behavioral, what makes God the person he is, is in that human being. The person you're looking at, that you pass on the street, that you share a bed with is a picture of God. 
Like a painting found in a yard sale, varnished and painted over, but interesting to a discerning eye, which upon being stripped of varnish and tarnish by a learned hand reveals a lost masterpiece, so is every single human being you will ever come in contact with.

Given the depravity of man, it is important to note that even after the Fall of Man, and after the Flood, there remained a sufficient likeness of God in mankind for God to exact the most significant punishment for the most significant act against that which still retained his image. Clearly, fr
om God's perspective, it is of the utmost importance how we deal with that which in made in his image, even though that image is tarnished. Jesus took things so far in this regard as to make our mere thoughts or attitudes in regard to other human beings matters of God's retributive justice.

From our perspective it is easy, even convenient, to look at another person as a problem, or as an obstacle, or as a threat, or even as a possession. The Bishop James speaks of our ability to bless God and to curse his image. It's a contradiction that ought not to be so, especially amongst those who believe. Friends, we have got to start seeing people as God sees them, otherwise there will be repercussions that we will have rather avoided when they're visited upon us.

What I am really talking about here is the sin of objectification. Objectifying a human being is treating a person as if he or she was merely an object rather than the image of God. That object can be tangible or intangible, but when a person devolves into a label in our estimation, we have committed the sin of objectification. Thus reduced, almost anything becomes excusable in our minds in regard to them. It 
may be common among the human race to do so, but assault upon the image of God is not something God ever takes lightly.