As Christians we are citizens of two kingdoms. I might leap into excitement about that fact, and with good support, but it is harder than it looks. One kingdom has darkness on the throne, and the other light. Dual-citizenship can feel like the in-between instead of the both, it can feel like being lost in twilight sometimes.
Each kingdom has it’s own policies which are largely opposed to each but even in this clash there are many commonalities that are difficult to separate. I don’t know how Christians ever owned slaves – but then I don’t know how any Constitutionalist did either because it clearly values the human individual and provides them innate rights. I can only assume that categories were implemented in our minds in such as way as to delineate “human” from “slave”. Right and wrong were accounted for completely by the letter of the law so we did not have to exercise true justice, true love, with our minds.
I wish to propose that it is the Imago Dei that should inspire all possessors of it to love and cherish it in all others – it is the reason I don’t own slaves – it is the reason I give to charities and volunteer time to help and teach – it is the reason I don’t view porn or treat the person in the McDs window with disdain – it is the reason I say please and thank you and smile when I meet another – it is even the reason I don’t litter – I value that unknown person who would have to come along behind me and pick up my crap and so for their sake I refuse to litter. It is not about “Right” and “Wrong” in the typical use, it is about value and love.
What is the Imago Dei? It is a Latin phrase meaning the Image of God. It is a fairly basic concept with a great deal of mystery around it. Christians, Jews and, I would suspect, even Muslim believers. It even carries over into many Hindu ideas about God and Humans but with different sources and certainly different conclusions. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein “God created man in his own image. . .”.
To say that humans have, or are in, the Image of God recognizes the innate and very special qualities developed in them by their Creator. This is not to say that God and two hands, a nose and a mouth, but rather that God’s unseen qualities have been displayed, or made “manifest” in humans in a way unique in all creation. Some might see this demonstrated through the exercise of free will. Many others will point to the immense creativity of humans and their ability to both appreciate and create beauty as a primary representation of the Imago Dei within. Still others will recognize that our ability and need to give and receive love is the actual Imago Dei dwelling in our hearts and minds.
There are also ethical and moral implications of the idea of Imago Dei. It is apparent that if humans are in fact a unique expression of God then to love God means also loving and valuing other humans as well. It also follows logically that this value is intrinsic – that is essential and built-in. As humans exercise their free will, they can become more or less “valuable” to society and each other based on their strengths and weaknesses and whether they contribute or detract from society, but the Imago Dei establishes a value that supersedes our societal “value” and instructs us, even enables us, to cherish and care for each other beyond the boundaries of the dark kingdom. I believe it even has the power to abolish the “us and them” mentality which is found at the root of so many conflicts and injustices.
The Imago Dei is not politics but it does change personal policy with great power. When someone is behaving in a manner which is contrary to the common good, or the commonly accepted, or the merely convienient, they maintain a value that neither I nor they can wipe from consideration. They need not recognize the Imago Dei in me, nor value me in order to secure my recogition of their value. As the culture moves further and further away from sacred concepts such as the Imago Dei, we increasingly lower our ability to value each other – tragically.