Live the Image

Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty.” – Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

We are created in the image of God, the beauty of which Metropolitan Anthony speaks.  We’ve heard that over and over, maybe to the point that we don’t take it as seriously as we should – but truly believing this impacts how we live.  The problem, however, is not necessarily that we don’t believe it, but that we forget it.

We forget it when someone continually wrongs us (or someone we love) and we harbor hatred in our heart. We forget it when we take pleasure in another’s misfortunes when we believe they deserve it.  We forget it when we look down on the poor because of choices they’ve made.  We forget it when we desire vengeance for those who have committed horrible crimes.  We forget it when we gossip.

Attempting to see the beauty in someone who has wronged us never justifies their bad behavior, but it does change us.  Seeing people as Christ saw others helps us to live the image in which we were created and it produces the kind of compassion needed to change the world.

After Steve Stephens broadcast his murder of Robert Godwin on Facebook, Godwin’s daughter, Tonya Godwin-Baines said this of Stephens:  “Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer. We want to wrap our arms around him.”

This is breathtaking faith.  “Wrap our arms around him”? Would that we all could do that, but I’m not sure I’m there yet.  What I do know is that the only way someone could express that sentiment is because they refuse to forget that even the greatest of sinners are beautifully made in the image of God.

Hard to be Humble

One of the more humorous songs of my childhood was Mac Davis’ “Oh Lord It’s Hard To Be Humble”:

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror, cause I get better looking each day.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.mac-davis-its-hard-to-be-humble-1980

I think we often misunderstand humility.  We might think that humility has to do with understating or even downgrading our own gifts and abilities.  When I was younger, one of my pastors told me that he believed true humility was an honest assessment of what gifts you have and the willingness to step forward to use them when needed.  It is also the restraint we show by not stepping forward when others among us are more gifted in a particular area.

Based on her study of the early Desert Monks, Roberta Bondi puts it this way: “Cultivating humility also means that we will begin to stop measuring ourselves continually against others…. Having humility will mean that we will have no particular desire to do better than others, and we will not care if someone else does better than we.” (To Love As God Loves, 1987)

Thinking of humility this way, we see that it connects to envy, pride, and even patience – and it’s quite a challenging virtue as Mr. Davis wryly sung.

But it’s okay not to be the best at something.  It’s okay if someone is more “successful” than we are or whose gifts get a bigger audience. God has not called any of us to be the best or successful as those concepts are often defined by the world around. God has called us to discover and use what he has given us.  And no matter how small our gifts may seem in the eyes of the world or even our own eyes, we are asked to humbly step forward and offer them to the Lord.