Racism. Terrorism. Threats of war. Words of hatred shouted indiscriminately toward others. These are only a few characteristics of today’s cultural climate; thus, proving again that our world is in chaos. Yet, this is not surprising given our residence in a world awaiting redemption from “its bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:21). The human heart has had this potential since Adam and Eve first rebelled against God, who is the first and primary target of human pride and hostility. What we see today is yet another manifestation of the unrighteous fruit springing forth from the evil root of human depravity.
However, it hasn’t always been this way and it shouldn’t be this way today, especially for Christians. Since all people have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), each of us must respect others as fellow image-bearers (Genesis 9:6). This is not to say that evil people are respected regardless of their sinful behavior; rather, it is our Creator’s likeness that each person bears—though now corrupt and calloused—that calls us to this posture of respect. Just as we may rightfully have a low opinion of a sinfully behaving child, if his or her parent was our best friend who died and donated to us a new heart, we would still respect who the child is supposed to represent. In fact, our sorrow and hope would be mixed as we long for their repentance and restoration, as we do for fallen humanity today.
But this is still insufficient for Christians. As image-bearers, we not only have the obligation to respect the image of God in others, we have the responsibility to reflect the very character of our Creator to others through our words and actions. Regardless of how a person understands the image of God or human depravity, the fact remains that we have all been designed to love God and love others. For this we have been created. From this we have rebelled. To this we have been called.
Because of this original blueprint on the conscience and constitution of humanity, a remnant of ‘oughtness’ remains on each of us—believer and unbeliever alike. Each of us must respect God’s image in others, and Christians especially have the responsibility to respond as image-bearers who reflect their Savior because we have the power and privilege to do it according to His grace (Colossians 3:10).
So, how should a Christian respond to today’s cultural chaos?
Let’s go back to the basics for a reminder.
- Trust God – Trust His sovereignty. Trust His goodness. Trust Him to bring about His purposes in His time, whether punishments for evildoers or rewards for the righteous. He still reigns, His authority cannot be revoked, and His promises will not fail (Psalm 93). When the realities and the rumors rage in the media and it is hard to distinguish between them, remind yourself that the King of the universe has said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
- Pray for Repentance…starting with our own – Of course we pray for sinners to be granted repentance unto salvation (2 Tim. 2:25), but we also use each evil in this world as a prompting to reflect on our own responsibility. We may not believe we are at fault in a matter, but don’t take that for granted. Instead, seek the face of God and let the mirror of His Word and the testimony of His Spirit be the confirming ‘voice’ (Hebrews 4:12; John 16:8). Confess to God your potential for similar evil, if it hadn’t been for His grace (1 Cor. 15:10). Ask Him to clear your eyes to see areas of personal guilt (Matt. 7:3-5). Be humbled in light of His grace being effective to restrain and remove your sin. Praise Him for the power to put off and avoid sinful words and deeds. Proclaim to others the freedom available through Jesus Christ. Pray for believers who have become ‘caught up in’ (Gal. 6:1-5) sin to publicly repent and give God the glory (Joshua 7:19-21).
- Respond in Christlikeness – In every situation it is God’s Son He is looking to glorify. Ultimately, every person will acknowledge Jesus and Lord unto their eternal condemnation or reward (Philippians 2:9-11), but today’s opportunity is for His name to be made great through His people reflecting His character. Whatever location or situation the Lord has placed you in (Acts 17:26-27), consider it a requirement that you take action on His behalf, for His glory, and according to His character. Weep as He wept (Luke 19:41-42). Proclaim hope as He did (John 10:10). Use this as the opportunity to offer freedom from the guilt of perpetuating the evil in the world by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ that offers to rescue image-bearers from the evil within (Romans 6:23).
It is especially important in times of crises that the citizens of God’s kingdom be salt and light in this world. Salt purifies from contaminants and improves flavor. Light casts out darkness and reveals what is true (and more specifically, the One who is Truth). To be salt and light Christians must individually live by the power of His Spirit, corporately display the unity and love found within Christ’s body (the Church), and universally proclaim the clarity, conviction, and comfort God’s Word offers to all who would repent and believe. Jesus is still saving sinners from every location and situation in this generation.
In the midst of cultural chaos, Christians must respect and reflect the image of God.
Pastor of the Canyon Hills School of Discipleship