Six Challenging Words

Six Challenging Words

Are you up for a challenge?  Well, they’re only six words, but they pack quite a punch. They are words with the power to change lives, not only in this country but around the world.

Here they are: “made in the image of God”.  The phrase comes from the first book of the Bible, called the Book of Genesis.  It’s called the Book of Genesis because it contains stories about beginnings:  the beginnings of the world, and the beginnings of the Jewish history. According to Genesis, every human being is made “in the image of God”.

There has been much debate down the centuries over what this phrase might actually mean, and the extent to which this “image of God” can get covered over by human sinfulness.  Nevertheless, at the heart of the phrase is the conviction that every human being is infinitely valuable, in and of themselves. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, powerful or on the margins, perceived to be successful or dismissed as a failure - everyone is infinitely valuable, simply as a human being. 

At first glance, this seems to be an innocuous statement. But, in reality, it is profoundly revolutionary. Most societies do not treat everyone with equal respect. Even in professedly egalitarian societies, the reality is that, in George Orwell’s phrase, some are more equal than others.

The vision of a society in which everyone is treated as being made in the image of God is a vision which is at the heart of Christian ethics. Of course, there can be wide differences of opinion as to what this principle might mean in practice. And Christians can of course, like anyone else, be hypocritical or blind to their own prejudices.

But the principle remains: every human being is made in the image of God, and so everyone human being deserves to be treated as someone of infinite worth. Whether we like the person or not; whether we approve of them or not - they still deserve to be treated as a human being.

There is much in our contemporary society which would seek to treat some human beings as somehow less than human. Language is used to turn human beings, in their rich individuality, into mere examples of problems. Let us resist this, and remember those six challenging words, written all those years ago.

Fr Jason