What Image Do You Bear? …Hello Hump Day readers. After this past week of nasty politics, bussing immigrants to New York or D.C., daily shootings, and the ravages from our changing-climate, I feel empty, exhausted, and often frustrated. As I watch folks on news or social media spout their faith in God I often wonder what ‘God’ they are talking about. And this brings me to image, which in our society is of the utmost importance to climb that ladder to fame and fortune. So my question on this Wednesday is “what image do you bear?”

Have you ever heard someone say, “He/she needs to clean-up their image”? For Hollywood and politics, image is everything even if it is a façade. You can tighten your skin, lighten your hair, polish your shoes, get your teeth fixed so they dazzle like porcelain, but the image fades quickly when your heart is not right. Like Solomon said, “vanity, vanity–is for nothing.”

I’m not sure about what you think of people, but I agree that every person was created by God to bear God’s image and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Yes, many have turned from God or have no belief that God exists, but they are still a child of God whether they like it or not! Without God they wouldn’t exist.

Some denominations say only those who believe in God are God’s children but that is not what the Bible says. Just reading the life of Jesus tells us that. Imagine—the Son of God actually talking to a Samaritan woman-oh no!! This encounter and others with Gentiles should remind us that Jesus came for everyone and Jesus did not exclude people.

It’s no wonder that many people today have walked away from churches who tell them that if they don’t do this or must do that or they can’t be saved. So many rules are man-made and have now become “Biblical theology” but, they don’t fit the Bible one whit! Divisions among those who profess faith are becoming wider and deeper and the more that happens, the more people decide to walk away from church and sadly, their faith.

The other day I was completely blind-sided by someone I know who believes that if you are Catholic you are not saved. Why, I asked? The answer about choked me up: “you know, statues, veneration, the Mary stuff…”—I stopped it before it went on any longer and I was trying not to fire off a few lines (thankfully the Holy Spirit closed my mouth). What I wanted to shout out was “salvation is God’s work, not ours!” As a hospice chaplain I can tell you one thing, when people are ready to die they have a conversation with God—you can feel it and see it—the room is palpable and the demeanor on so many faces turns from fear to peace and often a smile. I have no doubt some of those last-minute talks are “the thief on the cross” stories.

Where does this thinking come from? Because their denomination doesn’t fit yours they don’t have salvation-ridiculous! What does the Bible tell us about salvation? For me, that “Gospel in the nutshell” of John 3:16-17 tells it all. Yet we add to it, as if the words of Jesus are not enough. We forget that we bear the image of God in our lives, our heart, soul and mind, so what on earth are we up to?

Fundamentalism/legalism is raging right now and it is anything but what Jesus had in mind. It has found its way into churches and politics and has made a primordial toxic soup of the Christian faith. It also dashes hope and obliterates encouragement for our faith walk. In fact, it has ruined our “image” as a bearers of God—of the Christ who lives in us. God is the only one in charge of salvation and we would do best to share our faith and not judge.

I’m going to quote (again) another Max Lucado message because we need more hope today than division and fundamentalism. Max says: “Every person you see was created by God to bear his image and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Imagine the impact this promise would have on the society that embraced it. What civility it would engender. What kindness it would foster. Racism will not flourish when people believe their neighbors bear God’s image. Will society write off the indigent, the mentally ill, the inmate, or the refugee? Not if we believe, truly believe, that every human being is God’s idea. And he has no bad ideas. High IQ or low standing—doesn’t matter. First string or cut from the squad—doesn’t matter. You are a diamond, a rose, and a jewel, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. And because God’s promises are unbreakable our hope is unshakable!”

Sorry about my rant, but I see so many folks who are confused about the church, their faith, and yes even if God cares. We are here to bear the image of God, imagine what would happen if we actually lived that in our daily lives, in our churches, our neighborhoods, etc. We can do this if we truly believe every human being is God’s idea. AMEN.