I have reconsidered lately where God's majesty is most clearly seen.
Certainly I recognize it in the breathtaking sunsets and brilliant fall colors of Virginia, the snow-capped mountains of Montana, and the magnificent waterfalls of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Scenes of such beauty in nature definitely call for offerings of praise to their Creator.
Yet, none of those reaches the pinnacle of God's majestic work in creation. That spot is reserved for every human being, because each of us—and no other part of God's creation—is made in his image. The foundational declaration about the creation of man and woman in the Word of God says so: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27).
In my own life, I see or have seen the majesty of God reflected in:
- A girl born exceedingly prematurely resting in the hands of her mother as a monitor counted down her life in a neonatal unit.
- A bedraggled, middle-aged woman searching in a trash can apparently for food as I watched her from inside a restaurant.
- A boy with Down syndrome in our special needs Sunday School class who called me "doofus.”
- A young female friend of our family who is blind and mentally impaired.
- A boy in our church who could not speak or stand.
- A woman in a nursing home who frequently told tales indicating her mind no longer functioned coherently.
- A 96-year-old woman, my mother, who never responded as her family spoke tenderly to her and sang hymns around her bed in her final days.
- And some I have been unable to see but I knew bore God's image in the womb of their mothers—mothers who walked past my sidewalk vigil into a clinic and left childless.
Indeed, every one of these is, as David said of himself, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa. 139:14). They are not “less than” because of any inherent trait, any disability, any injury, any belief, or any crime committed against them. They are all the crown of creation.
Every human being, no matter his or her ethnicity, ability, condition, or age, is made in the image of God and should be treated with the dignity that truth demands.
Every human being I have ever encountered was created in God’s image, and every person I see today or will see in the future is created in God’s image—even those who oppose the right to life of others. Some of these foes of life may even acknowledge the majesty of the Creator in the wonders of nature, but they are blind to his majesty in some of their fellow human beings.
We, the people of God rescued by his Son, who took on flesh and blood like us, are the ones who have the treasured privilege of testifying to this truth and demonstrating it in how we treat every other human being: Every human being, no matter his or her ethnicity, ability, condition, or age, is made in the image of God and should be treated with the dignity that truth demands.
The Church of Jesus Christ should lead the way in proclaiming this vital truth about all human beings. It is not simply a declaration to be offered selectively by political conservatives who resist abortion or political progressives who oppose discrimination against various minorities. We, as the true Church, should boldly assert this reality no matter the context. Within the church, our policy positions on a variety of issues may differ, but our defense of the dignity of every human being should never waver.
As the Church, we cannot outsource this responsibility. For, we have the life-changing message that God the Son became an embryo in a virgin's womb and grew into a man who lived a righteous life, died on the cross, and rose again to save his people. We have the mission given by Jesus to make disciples of all people groups, baptizing and teaching them what Jesus has taught, which includes the message that every human being, regardless of age, has a life worth living. And we have the community—we actually are the community—of the redeemed, who love, serve, and welcome all made in God’s image.
In our day, the victims of unbiblical views of humanity—considered by their victimizers as lives not worth respecting or protecting—can include the enslaved, sexually abused, disabled, religious and ethnic minorities, refugees of war, and babies unborn and newly born. And there are many more in our world. Against these wicked, ungodly ideologies and acts the Church must proclaim again: Every human being has dignity because he or she is made in God’s image. No exceptions.