Does Christianity Have a Beautiful View of Humanity?

(While I am on Sabbatical and holidays, here is another chapter from a book I recently released called “Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope.” It is available here, and a free ebook version is available on KindleApple Books, and Kobo.)

Does Christianity lead to a beautiful perspective on humanity? Or is it ugly? If the God of the Bible is real, and is love, then we should expect beauty and not ugliness. Some would say it is ugly, setting up some people as better than the rest, creating a people who look down on others. It sets up a hierarchy of worth and value. It sets up some humans, perhaps most, or all according to some, as being worthless. There is no doubt, that we, who are Christians, have sometimes acted or spoken like this is so. But is that accurate? What do the Christian Scriptures teach about the Christian perspective on humanity?

Let us turn first, to the beginning;

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. . . . .

So God created human beings in his own image.

In the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)

All people are created in the image of God, without exception. This fact unites us in our humanity.

It might be suggested that while this was true of Adam and Eve, it has not been true of anyone since the Fall, that we no longer bear the image of God because of sin. However, consider this early appeal to justice following the Fall;

“And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image.

Genesis 9:5-6 (NLT)

To paraphrase, “how dare you lift a finger against another person in violence, for all people were created in the image of God and that still matters even though you are no longer in the Garden of Eden.” Every person has worth and value.

Now let us turn to the ending;

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar,

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne

and from the Lamb!” . . . .

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

“That is why they stand in front of God’s throne

and serve him day and night in his Temple.

And he who sits on the throne

will give them shelter.

They will never again be hungry or thirsty;

they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.

For the Lamb on the throne

will be their Shepherd.

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.

And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 7:9,10,14-17 (NLT emphasis added)

The Book of Revelation speaks of an incredible diversity of peoples gathered together in Jesus. From this we learn that all people have the opportunity to know God.

To sum up what we learn at both the beginning and end of the Bible, we will never meet a person who was not created in the image of God, and we will never meet a person for whom Jesus did not choose to bear the cross. All people bear the image of God without exception. Without exception, Jesus bore the cross for all people. That is the starting point for a Christian’s relationship with others. It is to be our perspective on humanity.

We see this humanity-valuing perspective in the writings of the Bible, not only at the beginning and the end, but also from beginning to end. For example,

  • When Abraham is called, that calling is ultimately for the sake of all nations, not just Abraham’s descendants.
  • In the Old Testament there are laws that provide for the well-being of the foreigner.
  • Foreigners were welcomed into the community, as exemplified with The Book of Ruth. While the practice of foreign religion among the Israelites was unacceptable, foreign people were accepted.
  • God’s concern for the foreigner was made explicitly clear in The Book of Jonah. Jonah shrank back from God’s call to preach to the enemy, the people of Ninevah, because he knew and was disgusted that God would be kind to them. God did indeed show His kindness to them.
  • Jesus loved all kinds of people, even touching “unclean” people, whom no one would ever dare touch, before healing them.
  • Jesus taught the importance of love for the neighbour, then emphasised that the neighbour is anyone and everyone. Your neighbour could even be those dreaded Samaritans, who can act better than the religious elites by the way, as Jesus pointed out in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • God called Phillip for a special mission to the Ethiopian eunuch, who was from a different land, likely had a different skin colour from Phillip, and, being a eunuch, could be described as having a different sexuality.
  • God gave the Holy Spirit to all kinds of people beyond the Jewish people.

From beginning to end, the Bible promotes the value and worth of all people. This covers more than just race, it covers any kind of difference. Consider that in a very patriarchal time and place, there is an emphasis on the equality of the sexes;

So God created human beings in his own image.

In the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)

Speaking of gender, there is a lot going on with gender in society these days.  Some of us may struggle to understand why a man identifies as a woman, or a woman as a man, or why some don’t identify as either. The starting point for relationship, even when people are beyond our understanding, is this: they are created in the image of God and Jesus chose to bear the cross for them. What will we choose to do for them?

All people bear the image of God without exception. Without exception, Jesus bore the cross for all people. This is true for people who are unique for any reason. 

With each of our pregnancies, my wife and I were offered the opportunity to test for Down syndrome. This would lead to an opportunity to have an abortion. In our minds people with Down syndrome have as much worth and value as any other person. They are created in the image of God. Jesus chose the cross for them. Therefore should a Christian carry on with such a test? 

Speaking of abortion, in my mind, a person in the womb has as much value and worth as a person outside of the womb. This is why Christians often tend to be pro-life. We should understand that nothing is as simple as it seems, that there is a great need for sensitivity on this topic, and people need reminding of the grace of God. Also, we should understand that some people are pro-choice based on their Christian ethic, based on love and concern for moms and women in difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, every person has value and the question is valid; is a fetus just “tissue,” or a person created in the image of God and for whom Jesus bore the cross? I raise this, not to end the conversation, but to begin it.

Given that all humanity bears the image of God, the Christian can not look down on any person as being worth less for any reason. Rather, we are called to love others with the love of Christ who bore the cross for them. The starting point is not “you are so different from me,” but “we are so much alike, in that we are all created in the image of God and we all receive an invitation for relationship with the Divine.” All people bear the image of God without exception. Without exception, Jesus bore the cross for all people. This is the Christian view of humanity, and it is beautiful.

Now consider what can happen when we take God out of the picture. Without the Biblical perspective on humanity, we can easily fall into racism, sexism, or looking down on people because they are different.  If we are indeed the product of unguided evolution, if there is no God, then what is to stop us from thinking that one race has greater value than another? The rat has had just as much time to evolve as the human. We naturally give the human more value and will call exterminators to deal with rat infestations so as to protect humans from disease. What is to stop us from giving greater value to one type of human, even going as far as exterminating other types of humans to protect the “more valuable”? Indeed this kind of thing has happened throughout history. It was not Bible study and a hunger for God that led the Nazi war machine to commit atrocities against the Jews. It was philosophical thinking that applied evolution to society. “We are more highly evolved than you” is ugly. In contrast, “You bear the image of God, Christ bore the cross for you,” is beautiful.

Every single person bears the image of God, regardless of colour, culture, medical conditions, gender, sexuality, or anything else. Jesus bore the cross for every person regardless of colour, culture, medical conditions, gender, sexuality, or anything else. We share this same starting point with every other person without exception. This is a beautiful perspective on humanity and it is helpful to humanity. This is what we should expect if God is real, and God is love. This is yet another reason why Christianity is beautiful.

Does Christianity Provide a Beautiful Vision for Citizenship?

(This is another chapter from a book I recently released called “Beautiful and Believable: The Reason for My Hope.” It is available here, and an ebook version is available on KindleApple Books, and Kobo.)

Are Christians to rebel against reigning governments or submit to them? Are Christians to take over governments? Does the Christian vision for society lead to a theocracy, where God’s law is the law of the land? Does Christianity promote a beautiful vision for society? If God is real, and Christianity is true, then we should expect beauty and not ugliness in the vision for citizenship. What is the vision?

Are Christians to rebel?

So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:18-20 (NLT emphasis added)

The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

Acts 5:26-29 (NLT emphasis added)

In the New Testament we find rebellion against the authorities in order to be obedient to God. We can think of many Christians around the world who disobey the authorities by gathering together as Christians, by telling others about Jesus, and sometimes simply by owning a Bible. May those of us who are Christians in lands of greater freedom be in prayer for the underground Church around the world. So yes, we are encouraged to rebel and break the laws when necessary.

So therefore Christians should never submit?

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

Romans 13:1-7 (NLT emphasis added)

Keep in mind that these words are taken from Paul’s letter to Rome, the seat of power in the ancient world. While the Christians in Rome recognised that saying “Jesus is Lord” meant therefore saying that Caesar is not, there was still a call to respect the authorities. There is an impulse to be good citizens of the land, to be good Romans when in Rome, or a good Canadian when in Canada.

We therefore find in the New Testament a balance between respect for the authorities as good citizens of the land, but also disobedience when necessary.

Are Christians to take over the government, to aim for a “Christian Nation,” or to establish a theocracy?

Reading through the entire New Testament we find no encouragement to take over the government or to establish a theocracy. Christianity began as a minority movement and therefore a takeover was not even entertained as a possibility. Even so, neither do we find a longing to do so at some point in the future when we have enough influence. What we find is a focus on individuals having a life-changing encounter with Christ. We find disciples making disciples. We find the recognition that Jesus already reigns without the need for a political or military coup. There is no need to take over the government, for Jesus is already Lord. There is no need to set up a theocracy, for God is already sovereign.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven:

“The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,

and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 11:15 (NLT)

The place of the Christian is not to enforce laws that make the land look like God’s kingdom. The place of the Christian is to live kingdom focused lives while watching and waiting for God to bring the Divine kingdom.

We find something similar in Old Testament. While there was a call for the establishment of a theocracy, known as Israel, there was no impulse for that theocracy to take over the world. Israel was not called to take over the world, but to be salt and light to the world. Christians today are to be salt and light within the world.

We are to have influence on society, but we are to be salt and light, not a hammer and gun. We are to carry a cross, not a sword. Helping people know Jesus is the priority of the Christian, not enforcing non-Christian people to live like Christians, especially not our own vision of what a Christian looks like. Sometimes a person’s idea of “theocracy,” a term referring to God being the leader, might better be termed “me-ocracy.” We are not to be kings over the land but kingdom people in the land, leading kingdom lives, looking forward to the Kingdom to come. We are disciples making disciples.

As lives are changed, society is changed. Christianity has brought good and beautiful changes to society, yet it is to do so without a vision for totalitarian control. We can consider how Christianity has nurtured human rights. 

As an interesting example, consider the nations that are the best, and those that are the worst, to live in if you are gay. According to one source, here are the ten best nations to live in if you are gay in ascending order; Argentina, Belgium, Malta, Germany, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, The Netherlands, Spain, and Canada. My own nation of Canada takes the top spot as the best! From another source, here are the worst in descending order; Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somaliland, Nigeria, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and Mauritania. Notice anything about these two lists? The nations that are considered best have all had Christianity working in the background for a long time, helping to shape the culture, helping to develop a societal vision of love for one’s neighbour and an appreciation of human rights. The nations that are considered worst share a history of either sharia law or communism, strict Islam or atheism. Rights and freedoms have flourished in lands that have been marinating in Christianity. This speaks positively about the relationship between Christianity and society.

To conclude, the New Testament does not promote a vision for society that is to be fought for, that is to be enforced. That would get ugly quite quickly. Unfortunately, being all too human, we Christians have made things get ugly at times. 

What the New Testament promotes is a vision for how Christians engage with and interact within society, any society. We are to be individuals reaching individuals with the good news of the love of God as expressed in Jesus Christ. We are to be disciples making disciples. We are to do good, to love our neighbours. We are to lead Jesus-centred, Spirit-filled, wisdom-seeking lives. We are to be kingdom people living kingdom lives, while watching and waiting for the kingdom to come. We are to be good citizens of whatever land we live in. We are to rebel when necessary. 

Overall, the Christian Scriptures promote a beautiful vision for how Christians engage with and live within society. This is consistent with what we would expect from a good and loving God.