Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27
Ahmaud Arbery. John Schoffstall. Breonna Taylor. Myra Janet Headley. George Floyd. Freddy Rodriguez Sr.
Three of those people died from the coronavirus. Three of those people have made national headlines as “black lives taken“. All of them were created in the image of God, and all of them are our neighbors whom we are commanded to love.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on these two categories of deaths that seem to cause immense division within the Church. The rhetoric regarding lockdown orders and reopening coming from those who call themselves Jesus’ disciples has seemed to me to indicate a lack of concern or care for those who have been affected by the coronavirus. Whether it’s spreading false information, comparing this virus to the flu, or protesting the requirement to wear masks, it seems to me that a large number of people within the Church care more about getting back to our “normal lives” than acknowledging that people made in the image of God are dying.
I’ve made the same observation in regards to the senseless murders of black individuals, particularly from those of us who are white within the Church. Whether it’s our immediate silence, our focus on “needing more facts first”, or at times, our outright opposition to those suffering injustice, it seems to me that we very quickly lose sight of the fact that these people are made in the image of God.
It’s not just white people who are not at-risk for Covid-19 who are created in the image of God. And it’s not just the people who fit into our tribe who we are called to love sacrificially.
One thing I’ve noticed in my own life is that I have been too silent and too slow. I have not spoken up for those who are suffering injustice, and have not lived out my belief that all are created in the image of God and, as such, have the same inherent worth and value. So, that’s what this is – a start. A start to a conversation, to living and acting in a way that’s consistent with the God who has loved me despite my unworthiness. A start to sacrificing my own comfort and privilege for the sake of those who God has called me to love as he loves. My hope is that this opens up a necessary dialogue, and that, if nothing else, it transforms my heart to be more like Jesus.
It can’t just be the minority communities, whether ethnic or health related, that care about the death of their own. It can’t just be the New York Times that points out the humanity of people dying from Covid-19. It has to include me, and it has to include us. As we minister to teenagers, in the ways we teach explicitly and through our actions, and as we go about our daily lives, we have to care about the imago dei of all people, and we have to care about actually living out the commandments of our Lord. I hope you’ll join me as I start to put to paper how I’ve been reflecting on these things.