Previously, we began looking at the sanctity of human life, and considered at two reasons from Genesis 9:5 that human life is sacred. Today I want to add a final reason. If you didn’t read last week’s post you may want to do that first.
The final point is that human life is sacred as we read in Genesis 9:5, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for (because) in the image of God he made man.” Divine glory rests on every human being. God has put his stamp on us. God has put his sign of ownership on us. Thomas Watson a great Puritan who wrote a commentary on the Ten Commandments says that whenever you harm another human being, physically, spiritually or emotionally, whenever you abuse or violate a human beings humanness, whenever you use them, you are tearing God’s picture. What does it mean when we tear someone’s picture? God says that’s what you are doing to me. An assault on someone in my image is an assault on me. You are tearing my picture.
Okay, but what is the image of God? To be in the image of God means that God gave us some kind of structure that enables us to reflect aspects of his being, which we alone can reflect. In other words, the idea of the image means that there is something about us; there is something about our nature which makes us able to reflect. He has made us a mirror.
Now we know for example that we can see our reflection in a dim way in maybe polished rock. We can see our reflection in a better way in still water, but we can see our reflection in almost a perfect way in a certain kind of metal, like a mirror. Depending on the structure, the physical structure of the substance, we are able to see our image, because each kind of substance is a little bit better at reflection. It can reflect in different dimensions. Now the Bible tells us that all of creation to some degree reflects God’s glory. It says in Psalm 19, the heavens declare the glory of God. What does that mean? Take a look at a waterfall. Can you see anything of God in there? Of course. Look at the mountains, look at the horses. Do you see anything of God in there? Of course. They reflect something, but they reflect dimly, they reflect the way polished rocks reflect: You can see a little bit of your face, you can see a shadow , you can see something of it. The heavens declare the glory of God. But what God is telling us right here is that humans are more than animals, you don’t have this accountability for animal’s lives; that doesn’t mean we must not be good stewards of the created order, but there is a higher accountability. Because we are made in the image of God, we are like a mirror. There is something about us that can reflect God’s glory in a peculiar way that no other created thing can.
Now what are those things? Let me ask you a couple of questions. How come humans are some much more unhappy that horses? Have you ever thought about that? Your cat is far more well adjusted that any other member of your family. Horses, cats they have similar needs, right? The cat wants to be fed and wants cosy places, a cats life is an eternal quest for what? It’s not a very high quest, it’s a quest for cosiness. Cosy and warm spots, with a good supply of food, that’s all the cat’s after. And the cat glorifies God. The cat is beautiful, the cat is fun, the cat is fascinating. And the Bible says that the horse glorifies God by being a horse, the mountain glorifies God by being a mountain, and a cat glorifies God by being a cat. And it’s our job not to worship nature, but to be stewards of nature, and let them glorify God by being what they are. See this is a great Christian basis right here for environmentalism, not the loony side that says we have to worship nature as if nature is no different from us, but not the other side that says we can just ravage nature and do anything we want. It’s our job to enable the created order to glorify God by being itself. We need to let mountains be mountains, that’s how they glorify God, they tell us something about the majesty of God. We need to let the Drakensberg be the Drakensberg. We have to let horses be horses and cats be cats. And yet they are much simpler things. And yet why is my cat so much more well adjusted that everyone else in my family?
Think about it this way. Why do we want more love than we can ever get? Why are we so frustrated in our desire to create things? No matter how good the job is? Just about the time you get old enough for your head to be mature, your body starts to deteriorate. Why is it that we never can achieve what we want to achieve, why is it that we want beauty and we never have enough, why is it that we want love but we never have enough? Why is it that we have higher standards? Why are we so unhappy? Why are our desires insatiable? We want a job, we want a love, we want a beauty, we want creativity that the world doesn’t afford us, why? Why are we so unhappy?
Or one more question: Why do we hate death so much? You know if this world is all there is there is nothing more natural than death. Animals don’t fear death, they feel pain, but death is perfectly natural. Here is the reason why: The Bible says that we are made in the image of God, we have that complex structure by which we can reflect things that the mountains and horse and cats cannot, we can reflect God’s rationality, his personality, his eternity, and his creativity, and they can’t. Because we are rational we hunger to know, because we are personal we hunger for love, because we are eternal we hunger to last! That’s why we hate death, we rage against the dying of the light. And because we are creative we hunger for beauty
We and we alone are mirrors of God; we can reflect his rationality, his personality, his eternity, and his creativity, in a way that nothing else can. And if you don’t understand that you are made in the image of God, you will never know why you are unhappy. You are so unhappy because you are so great.
If our souls are so great that no degree of success can satisfy, what were we made for? There is something so great about us, that’s why we are so unhappy. Animals aren’t so unhappy, they are very happy, cosiness, food, running fast like the horses, they are happy. What do we want? We were built to reflect God, we were built as mirrors to face God, that’s the greatness that we have been given, and the reason that we are so unhappy is because we are not faced to God. If you face a mirror toward the sun it brilliant, if you face the mirror towards the darkness its dark, it’s still a mirror, but it’s not doing what it need to do. If you turn the mirror toward nothing, it reflects nothing, but it’s still a mirror, and that’s the nature of human beings in sin. We are turned away from that which we were built to reflect; we are still mirrors, we still have that capacity for personality, rationality, for eternity, for creativity; but we are faced toward the darkness; and we rage against the dying of the light and we hunger, and we thirst to know, to last. In our unhappiness you see our greatness, and God says it’s because he has put his stamp on you, he has made you in his image, he has made you little versions of himself, mortal versions, that’s how great you really are.
See, the sacredness of human life!. Whether rich or poor, smelling good or bad, whether elect or reprobate, going to heaven or going to hell, satisfying or irritating, the sixth commandment puts a protective shield around every human life and says “sacred.” The image of God, the divine stamp is upon ever human being.
Two small points before we end today’s post. If you don’t understand that every human being is made in the image of God you will not understand yourself. You won’t understand why you are so unhappy, you will think there is something wrong with you if you are unhappy; you need counselling and you might, but there is an unhappiness underneath the aggravated unhappiness of the moment, there is a base note of unhappiness because we are so great that nothing but God himself will fill our mirror.
Lastly, sociologically, unless you believe every human being is made in the image of God you can’t build the kind of society we need to have. Do you believe that we are created in the image of God, then you have a basis for saying that we must not trample on each other, but if you believe that there is no God, that we all essentially evolved out of the ooze, that we just are just a bag of chemicals, that we are not essentially any different from animals, you suddenly have lost your ability to talk about building a just society.
The horror of apartheid or slavery should not lead us to disbelieve in God. If there is no loving and just God, we are just animals, and how then do you have a problem with the way animals treat animals.
G. K. Chesterton said about a person who doesn’t believe in God:
As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of human life, but as a philosopher he admits that all life is a waste of time. A Russian philosopher denounces killing a peasant, then in his other philosophical writings proves that the peasant should have killed himself. A scientist goes to a political meeting where he complains that we are treating indigenous people like beasts, but then he goes to a scientific meeting where he proves that we are beasts. Therefore, the modern rebel has become useless for all purposes of revolution. By rebelling against everything including God, he has lost his right to rebel against anything.
Get rid of God, get rid of the idea of ownership, get rid of the idea of the image of God and eventually we have no basis for not abusing each other, you get rid of the idea of the sacredness of human life.