The Image of God

Last November, I had the opportunity to attend a creative conference that hosted speakers in areas such as design, branding, and photography.  Not being in any of these professions myself, much of the talk about marketing strategies and typeface creation went over my head; thankfully, several of the main speakers were great communicators and storytellers, which made their talks the ones that engaged me the most.  

The speaker on whom the majority of the attention and excitement centered was Aaron Draplin, a graphic designer from the northwest.  An animated and scattered presenter, his talk focused as much on the current political situation (voting day loomed around the corner) as on the book he was promoting.  With resentment and strong language he denounced our current president, labeling him as the worst of the worst, leaving no question that he saw no good in Donald Trump and thought that no one else should either.  About five minutes later, he was talking about his love and admiration for Barack Obama and his family, and with a hushed, pleading voice, he confided, “I know he’s not perfect, but you know, he’s human, they’re only human.”

Immediately, the contradiction in his treatment of these two politicians accosted me.  In his eyes, only one of the two men he talked about was a human who could be empathized with, admired, and forgiven for his faults; the other one was too hopelessly evil to be portrayed as a human or something the speaker shared any features with.  Mr. Draplin had unknowingly and perhaps unintentionally turned his enemy into a non-human, a simply evil “other,” exempt from redemption of any kind. 

I was piqued, not by his political views but by his contradiction.  

Genesis 1:26-2 tells us that the Lord crafted humankind in His image – “in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them.” 

This is what separates us from animals and the rest of God’s hand-made creation; this is what truly gives us our identity as humans.  Further, the Bible does not say, “He created the Israelites in His image” or “Men only were created in His image” or “In His image, He created designers and pastors, but not bank tellers or musicians.” 

Strip away all the things that we think make up our identity, and at the core of you and everybody else, there is this beautiful, reflective piece of Eternity that should tell us something about our capacity for goodness and redemption. 

You can probably tell where I’m going with this – if the words of Genesis are true, then you and I and Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Aaron Draplin all share this holy, significant identity. 

C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses” (The Weight of Glory).  This should absolutely cause us to reconsider our relationships with the individuals around us as well as with those distant, high profile figures such as celebrities and world leaders. 

How would our perspectives and conceptions of others change if we remembered that they, too, are human – and if we picked apart exactly what that means?

Not only this, but you and I and Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Aaron Draplin are all in the same group of people (i.e. the world, i.e. EVERYONE) that Jesus talks about in John 3:16: “’For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  The Lord loves you; He also loves the people you don’t love.  Do you need a better reason to love them?

Processing Mr. Draplin’s words has made me think about the people I love and admire as well as those I resent and encouraged me to reconsider my posture towards people in both categories.  We are all the same at our core, and in spite of all of the stuff we pile on top of that, God loves ALL of us. 

I have this apocalyptic mental picture of the implications of these two facts: One day, when the Lord comes back and all is revealed, I will be kneeling beside both my friends and my enemies, turning that God-shard in me to reflect its Maker, and finally, finally seeing everyone around me the way Jesus has seen each of us all along.  Everyone will be humbled before the King of Kings, but most importantly, I will be humbled, and this obliges me to act with humility towards my neighbor NOW.  

Please don’t mistake me – this is not a call for you to change your political opinion or compromise your values; this is a plea to you and to me to be every so careful with how we think about, talk about, and treat each other.

Eliza McNelly