The Image of God and the Christian Political Story

Jesus commanded his followers to go into all the world—every corner of every culture—and proclaim the good news of his life, death and resurrection. Everywhere we go, Christians are supposed to strive to strive to demonstrate what kind of difference knowing that we are part of Jesus’ story makes for the way we live our lives in the here and now. Jesus called it, "being lamps on a stand or cities on a hill.” But if Jesus is really king over all the earth, and he really wants us to take him at his word when he says to go into every corner of the world and live like lamps on a stand, then we need to work out what God’s great story can mean for the way we interact with and about politics.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with folks lately about my general principles for approaching politics, whether it’s as a political operative working on a campaign or as a private citizen having a talk at a bar. Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to fire off a few short blog posts introducing those principles, starting with a brief outline of what Genesis 1 means for the way we should talk about our political opponents.

God’s Image

The Christian story starts with God creating the heavens, the earth and everything in it. He took joy in the world as he crafted it, assessing everything he made and calling it “good.”

But when he made humans, things went from good to great. (Or, well, from “good” to “very good.”)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

The Christians story teaches that everyone carries the image of God. Every person can trace their roots back to the moment just before God elevated his opinion of his own creation. Every person carries a heritage that makes them worthy of respect—even the people with whom we disagree.

To Christians, our political opponents shouldn’t be monsters, demons or craven animals. Our political opponents are image-bearers of God. And in an increasingly polarized political environment, learning to imbue our opponents with divine dignity even as we vehemently disagree with them is potentially one of the biggest ways we can stand in contrast to the world around us.

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