Monday I was leading a book discussion with our summer interns, when I posed the question, “Do you think someone really knows God personally if they have no love for other people?”
In a few different words each intern came to the conclusion that if a person continually lacks love for other people, then they probably don’t know God very well.
It was a proud moment for me because my interns are the best and brightest.
It’s really easy for us to come to that conclusion in our brains. If someone consistently doesn’t love people, then they must not know God very well. But I’m ruminating on a spot where I think we get really stuck and where we actually cheapen or negate the idea of the Gospel.
I’m so deeply troubled with how easy it is for us as a collective, specifically in America because that’s the context I’m living in, to dehumanize other groups of people who we would prefer to not be in our collective.
It happens on both sides of the aisle here in the USA. I’m watching hyper-conservatives turn a blind eye to the fact that immigrant infants and inmates are given the same judicial proceedings to determine the country they will get to call home. I’m watching the far-left strip every mass murderer of their humanity and use terms like “animal” or “monster” to describe them. It’s far too easy for us to strip people of their humanity these days, and I believe that’s a direct affront to our Gospel.
The Gospel Message states that every human who has graced this planet was made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) Because of the brokenness of our planet and our rejection of relationship with God, people distort or cover the image of God within themselves. (Romans 3:23) The story of salvation tells us that God worked really hard to show us that everything is redeemable and welcome into the story of grace thanks to the testament and actions of His Son, Jesus. Everything. Everyone. Is redeemable.
I’m convicted this morning by how I’ve rejected the wholeness of the Gospel story. I don’t always believe that everyone and everything is redeemable. I cheapen the power of the Gospel with the brokenness I see. I believe that the brokenness wins. I believe that the stuff that distorts and covers the image of God in others is permanent and victorious. I believe that the redeeming power of my God is less than. Yikes.
I’m convicted today by my own beliefs, and I notice how we as a community, society, country, fall for this lie too. It’s easy to demonize an entire groups of people from other nations because we don’t believe that the worst of their worst is redeemable. It’s easy to dehumanize every gun owner because we don’t believe that the ones who have killed dozens in one sweep are redeemable. When we peel back the layers of junk, brokenness, fear, wounding, and judgement on the worst of the worst, we will eventually get to the sacred image of God that lies buried deep underneath. We will see that redemption - though harder for some to accept because of the layers of junk that stand in the way - is readily available for everyone and everything.
The message of the Gospel is audacious. Can I really challenge myself to believe that the heart of God even wants to redeem someone like Hitler or Stalin? That he wants to restore his image in child sex-traffickers and abusers? That he wants relationship with the darkest of sociopaths and the jerks who lace street drugs with lethal poison?
It’s hard for me to believe that the Gospel is that powerful. That it has the potential to redeem everything. And I get to wear and declare that possibility for all as a person who has accepted this redeeming power in my own life.
I’m convicted about how my fatalistic thoughts towards others has cheapened the work of the Gospel in my own life and the lives of those I influence. How my exclusionary faith has boxed in the power of God in my own life. And I’m amazed by the audacity of grace that allows me to see this truth now. And I’m kind of thrilled for what comes next.
Who have you believed is beyond God’s healing grasp? How can you challenge yourself to see their humanness and the stamp of our Creator God on their lives no matter how much they have erected to conceal it? Redemption isn’t exclusive. Redemption isn’t weak. Redemption has the power and potential to reach everyone. Can we believe this and allow this belief to affect how we see and love others? I think it could be a gamechanger.
“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life…I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” John 10:10, 14-16 NLT