Scripture declares that we are made in the image of God. In Genesis 1:26, God himself says “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” Humanity is not a trial and error invention. No part of creation was a left-over or afterthought. God had purpose for every aspect. And he saved the best for last. He made humanity in a specific way, with a specific purpose––to bear the image of God. All of us. Each one of us. This truth and doctrine should drive a thousand other beliefs and convictions about how we view ourselves and others. The great equalizer in life is that every single one of us are made in the image of God, regardless of race or gender.
“THE DOCTRINE OF MAN MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD IS ONE OF THE BASIC DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE AND ONE OF THE MOST ELEVATING, ENLARGING, MAGNANIMOUS AND GLORIOUS DOCTRINES THAT I KNOW.”-A.W. TOZER, The Attributes of God
This prevailing truth, among many others, is what makes racism and bigotry such an evil among us. The idea that any human carries more or less intrinsic value than any other is a lie from the depths of hell. And while we would affirm this biblical truth, each of us carry mindsets, vocabulary, stigmas, stereotypes, and ideologies veiled in “cultural differences” that too easily deny this essential value of every human. It takes a shocking and seemingly hate-filled, racist killing to awaken us to the blatant revolt against God and attack on his image bearers that still exists in our world and may be buried deep in our own hearts and minds.
Reports indicate that on February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a young black male, was jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Brunswick, GA when two armed white men chased after him. They believed Arbery was responsible for a recent break-in in that area. After a brief confrontation, Arbery was shot and killed on a residential street about two miles form his home. The tragic event was caught on camera.
In the wake of this all-too-familiar episode, I find myself angry, regretful, confused, and grieving over the killing of a fellow human specially created in God’s image. And I wonder what the right course of action is, especially as I lead others to think about injustices like this. Are there any appropriate ways to express our disgust, anger, frustration, and confusion?
Whatever we feel, and however we respond, the one thing that I’m convinced of is that we must start with prayer. Pray for Ahmaud’s family. Pray for his attackers. Pray for the community of Brunswick, GA. Pray for justice. Pray for peace.
Beyond this, let me encourage you to continue to pray through three likely reactions to this tragedy.
BEFORE YOU DISMISS, PRAY.
If you find yourself thinking “there must be more to the story”, don’t. There isn’t anything that justifies what was done. Nothing. There will be, and already are, attacks on Arbery’s character. His past will be brought up in an attempt to make others believe that he in some way brought this on himself. He didn’t. Even if Arbery had been running down the road pulling a cart with stolen goods, it wouldn’t have justified being chased down and shot three times. The tendency to dismiss this story speaks to our own hearts. When we dismiss or minimize instances where the image of God has been trampled, we’re in danger of trampling it ourselves. Fight to acknowledge what you might typically ignore that evil and racism exists in our own world. Instead of dismissing this story or others like it, pray. Pray that God would enlighten your own heart and give you compassion and empathy for those who are suffering and fearful. Ask that God would give you a heart for those who fear walking down a street at night or being pulled over at random. Ask that God would awaken your heart and mind to all the ways that the image of God is being denied and destroyed across the globe and in your neighborhood.
BEFORE YOU HATE, PRAY.
If and when your righteous anger and frustration at the injustices of this world turns towards the hatred of a person or persons, pray. Yes, hate racism. Hate it with all of your heart. Hate it hard. Fight it in your own heart and your tendencies towards it––whether we want to admit it or not, we are not immune to prejudice. Hate the circumstances. Hate injustice. Hate all of the brokenness in this world, and long for the day when it will be undone. But, don’t allow the same hate that consumes others to consume you. Before you hate all of the things you need to hate, pray. Pray that the Lord will keep your heart from being consumed. Pray that you won’t fall prey to looking at the face of others and feeling anything but heartbroken. Pray that you view every single person in the same way that Christ views them. In his own words, Jesus commands that we pray for even those who persecute us.
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!Matthew 5:44 NLT
There are things that should be hated in this world. But people aren’t things; they are image bearers.
BEFORE YOU POST, PRAY.
In a world where everyone has a voice that can be broadcasted around the world with a tap of a screen, our tendency is to believe that we need to shout something immediately or else we don’t care. Sometimes, silence is mistakenly viewed as indifference. Sometimes it is. While we need to speak out against any form of violence against others and our core image-of-God belief, social media may not be the best avenue to do this. You’ll inevitably get likes. You might even feel yourself better than your friends who didn’t post something. But, a couple of years from now when it shows up on your “memories”, what difference did it really make? Will it have changed anyone’s mind or righted the injustice? Will it have righted any lingering prejudices in your own heart? Don’t get me wrong. I believe we should speak up and use whatever means we have to do so. I also believe that posting a quick link or an angry emoji on your favorite platform isn’t going to change hearts. Before you believe that you’ve done your duty on speaking out against atrocities like racism––understand that most likely, you’re yelling into a crowd who are yelling the same thing. Instead of reacting, ask the Spirit of God to direct you in how to act, in how to speak, in who to engage. Before you post, pray. Pray that the Spirit of God would show you effective ways to make a difference in your world, in your neighborhood, in your family, and in your own heart. Pray that the Lord would give you a voice that would help change and shift mindsets for generations to come.
Let’s commit together to love and cherish the great truth that comes from being made in the image of God. And, until the day when that image is not only dimly seen, but fully revealed, let us pray that the Lord would use us to change and shape this broken world more into the image of His Son.
-Brian Kohout // Teaching Pastor // May 14, 2020