15 Nov The Imago Dei
Archeologists discovered an ancient Roman letter from around 1BC recording the wishes of a husband to his wife regarding the upcoming birth of their child:
If–good luck to you! –You bear offspring, if it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it.
Exposure was an ancient practice where unwanted, imperfect, or untimely children were literally left to die. These helpless children were abandoned near sewers or trash heaps and left to die by exposure to the elements. Despite all their societal achievements, Rome was a very brutal place.
Around this same time in history, the early church was starting to take hold and something strange began to occur. These early followers of Jesus began going to these hard places to rescue children from a horrific end and raise them as their own. Society was puzzled and the early Church became known for their radical hospitality towards the unwanted and unloved.
Why did these early Christians do this? Let me suggest one theological concept that has guided the church throughout the centuries to take hard stands, make real sacrifices, and live out the gospel in costly deeds. That concept is Imago Dei. Imago Dei simply means that humanity was created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and that we mirror God in many ways. It means that humanity is different from the animal world and that all life is sacred. This truth, written deep in our hearts, at best gets lost and, at worst, comes under direct assault in a modern and secular age. Regardless of the historical moment in which we live, the Imago Dei is true.
So what? The Imago Dei will lead us to love, respect, and care for all people, but especially the vulnerable and marginalized. As we see injustice, God’s spirit in us will lead and compel us to act in simple ways. God hasn’t called us to bear the weight of saving the world…that His job. He has called us to follow him to the hurting and unwanted to be His hands and feet. What does the Lord require of you and me? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:6-8) Our prayer is that we would pray and then go to these hurting people both near and far. November is National Adoption and Foster Care month. Our society is not so different from Rome; the methods may be more sophisticated, but no less brutal. Maybe God is calling you to explore becoming a foster or adoptive parent. Maybe He’s leading you to support a family experiencing the real ups and downs of parenting children from difficult places. Let His love and the reality of His image in the heart of every person lead you.