Injustice and corruption are so deeply embedded within the system of our world. We see injustice and corruption from politicians and the government, CEOs, media outlets; even pastors and priests are not exempt from debase corruption. Injustice and corruption are evidenced through racial prejudice and discrimination, sexism, the ill treatment of the unprivileged... the list goes on. We are very clearly surrounded by injustice at every avenue. This is not new. There is nothing new under the sun - what has been will be again (Ecc. 1:9).
Because of recent events and what we perceive to be injustice and corruption, it seems everyone's arguing about something. If it's not about sex/gender, then it's about race or sexual preference/orientation, or it's religion and politics or it's about who should wear what, or one’s morals, or how one should speak or act or dress. But why do these things bother us so much? Why do they produce so much disintegration and disagreement? Why do they cause so much protest and revolt?
Deep within these issues, there is a concern for personhood - what it means to be a true person, what it means to be treated as a true and whole human being. This concern for personhood does not only lie within whether or not a foetus is a person, but is also found in issues outside the womb. Most of us are very much concerned with human and civil rights. Most of us are concerned about the treatment of certain races; we are concerned about the wellbeing and placement of Muslims and how governments and the media may demonise or scapegoat them, or even disallow their presence into particular countries. Most of us may have a concern - even if only ideologically - for the poor and marginalised. We become very concerned when our leaders do not fight for the rights of the disenfranchised and oppressed. But why?
The issue of personhood can only be significant through one truth. This truth is that human beings are made in the image of God; despite who they are. Now, to be made in God's image isn't simply a fluffy statement to make one feel better when they are low on self-esteem. It does not even refer to physical image (Scripture doesn't assert that God looks like a human, it uses figurative/personified language). It's actually still debated what it ultimately means, but an essential notion can be taken from it.
Scripture makes it clear (Gen. 1:26-27) that God made the world. It affirms that humanity did not come from cosmic slime, but has been purposely made by a loving Creator God who made us in His image. This means that God made not only our physical frame, but also made a particular immaterial part of mankind that is to resemble or 'image' Him morally and mentally, with the freedom of choice and action, and the ability to consciously commune with Him. God in His intended purpose made humans, the pinnacle of His creation. He made this creature to have relationship and fellowship with, who will enjoy Him most out of all His creation; a creature who is able to think rationally, morally and make choices in his limited freedom just as God is able to make choices in His infinite freedom. Mankind is set apart from all of creation to have an emotive, social fellowship with His creator and has been given an innate value and worth by His creator - which is why we have concern for human life over and above the life of plants or animals. Humans are God's prized creation, the ones who He distinctly expresses His love to, and gives a special capacity to be able to understand, process, accept and reciprocate that love and have relationship.
But this image is marred and distorted by sin. Because of sin our rationality is flawed; our morals are severely stained; our ability to image and relate to God and relate to mankind is tainted. Our emotions, will and all that comprises us is disfigured (but not destroyed) because of sin. As a result, our relationships with one another are affected. (This is in play behind all of the distortion that is manifested in previous and present society.) No longer do we fully and truly view ourselves in the full worth that God made us in and no longer do we view others in the full worth that God made them in. We cannot fully comprehend that others have this true and deep innate worth. There is something within us that does not want to pursue or commune with those who are different, as though they are any less in the image of God than we are. But nonetheless, humans, though distorted by sin are still image bearers.
The implication of being made in the image of God which I'm sure can be understood by both believers and if you don't believe (even if you're a sceptic). If you fight for human rights, you're doing it wrong if you cannot look through the lens of this implication of the imago Dei.
The truth of the Imago Dei communicates that people are not merely just people. People are not the result of an accidental, cosmological happening. People are not simply the evolved state of primordial soup, or a clump of cells and atoms, but are actually something much, much more. Upon every human being, the image of God is placed. C. S. Lewis says: 'There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.'
The very essence of mankind was designed by God to be like Him. That is not a statement to be glossed over. Such a statement shows that our worth is connected to our Creator. God as Creator is of infinite worth and His image upon us replicates a high level of worth (not as near as high as His but nonetheless a substantial worth). This places the worth of humans outside of how we may give worth to someone. Therefore, worth can never be based upon race, or sex and gender, or on one's financial income or even one's political opinion! Worth is defined by the fact that the Maker has imprinted a distinct worth and His likeness upon mankind - 7, 500, 000,000+ people with God's image. Every person we walk past, the people that live in our house, those who we don't like because their opinions or actions differ from ours; those to whom we pay no mind; those whom we choose not to understand; refugees, homosexuals, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, the Disabled/handicapped, Men, Women, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian... are ALL made in the image of God.
Any other philosophy about the true worth of man falls short if it's not placed within the Creator God. Rapper, Propaganda in his song 'Forgive me for Asking' says:
'If human behaviour is what protoplasm does at this temperature, then there is no need for humanitarian effort, because these atrocities weren't wrong, it's just the universe weeding out bad genes.' This is the direction an atheistic worldview goes if taken to its furthest conclusion. But we would never believe that! It would be impossible to accept that conclusion of Natural Selection and Evolutionary principles because it fails to recognise worth in any existing thing, including humans. The concern for humanity can only come from a heart of a human made in God's image, who inwardly and unconsciously knows the worth of human beings because it has been implanted in him/her from Creation!
From this point is where we must start our fight for justice and equality in society and our helping of humanity. If we get the root problem wrong then we get everything wrong. Ravi Zacharias points out that the fact of the Imago Dei in creation is a vital source in enabling us to understand what it means to be human. Only from there can we be a true source of help to society. If we cannot understand the true worth of humanity then how can we ever rightly and justly fight for human rights?
Within all of this, the greatest news in this predicament of our falling away (not completely) from the image of God is that Christ - who is the express and truest image of God (Heb. 1:3) - redeems and restores us back to God's likeness through salvation by grace through faith in His perfect life, in His death for the sins of mankind and the resurrection. He begins to change the heart of one who is out of relationship with God. He is able to change the sinner's view of the world, God, humanity and themselves as He through His Holy Spirit makes them like Him. God sees all things perfectly: race, gender, the economy, politics. Christ in giving a new heart restores the mind (Rom. 12:2) which involves one's view of the world and society. This is the most important truth about this whole post, because this is the truest way in which one can not only understand the problem of our broken world, but be led in helping the vulnerable and stepped-on in the world.