Word from the Center: Friday, January 25, 2019

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s topic/issue….

Made in the Image of God and the Sanctity of Life – Healing the Cultural Divide!

In November of last year, I was privileged to sit on a panel that discussed the issue of immigration in our culture. It was a very meaningful experience. My charge was to discuss the perspective that faith, especially faith from a Lutheran perspective, brought to this discussion. At the end of a rigorous dialogue on a variety of policy issues, the discourse culminated with this compelling question from the audience: “How can we come together as a country on issues like this  or are we bound to be divided forever?” Good question.  It transcended the topic of the day in one way. It pointed to the fact that there must be a common presuppositional truth to dialogues like this, truth that can bond us together even if our policies might diverge. The Jewish Rabbi on our panel immediately responded to the question, saying something wonderful. He said, “In all of these issues, we must first begin with the common understanding that we are all created in the image of God.” Wow! Great answer. And virtually everyone in the room seemed to agree, some whispering, some even shouting, “Yes,” to that assertion.

But here’s the thing (and I said this as part of my contribution to the issue). If a person were to claim that being “created in the image of God” is the key to our common humanity, our common dignity, and our common community and you were to assert that at many public universities (e.g., in biology class, philosophy class, political science class, sociology class, English class or journalism class), or even at a public high school, you’d probably receive an “F” for your troubles. This fundamental truth is needed today more than ever. Proclaiming this truth does indeed bond us together as people (believers and non). When Christians proclaim the biblical truth of God’s ordering of the world, we engage our culture on God’s terms, seeking to bring temporal peace and civility (the “civil use of the Law”), even as this truth also exposes the disorder of our world and hearts, summoning them  to repentance (the “spiritual use of the Law”) and faith.  We uphold issues like the sanctity of life and the dignity of human beings as “created in the image of God” not merely as transitory truths, but as fundamental truths which undergird our temporal liberty, dignity, and humanity. When we see these truths violated, they also then call all human hearts to God’s ultimate solution to our human sinful condition in Christ.

So how do we answer the final question of the room that day? Amidst the many disagreements that we might have in a democracy, there are fundamental truths that undergird these discussions which need to be proclaimed and defended. Engaging culture for the sake of civility and justice calls us to proclaim and defend the knowledge that human beings are accountable to the God who created us, the One who also calls us to reflect His love and care for all those He has created and redeemed. Fundamental truths like the common dignity of humans created in God’s image, the sanctity of life, and the institution of marriage and family are truths that need to be defended for the sake of all, for the blessing of all. That’s a cultural mandate God’s people should fulfill. Furthermore, proclaiming God’s ordering of the world is also part of our missional work as we proclaim the truth that the God who created us, indeed the one who ordered our world for our blessing, sent His Son to redeem us from the disorder and pain our sin and rebellion have brought into the world. With humility, we have the opportunity to be part of the solution for our divided culture, even as we fulfill our mandate to call all to repentance and faith in the One who loves us and redeems us on His gracious terms alone.