In reading the Gospels, I have previously commented upon Jesus’ response to those around him. For example, think of his response to the woman at the well in John 4. In such a small town, all everyone would have known of her marital state, or lack thereof. Yet, Jesus thinks it was important enough to speak with her that he took the detour through Samaria.
Think also of Jesus’ calling of Levi. Jesus chose Levi (Matthew) to be one of his disciples (Mark 2:14) despite the fact that Levi participated in the oppression of the Jews through the tax system.
Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created man in his own image. I see God’s image as the source of our concept of personhood, our need for community, our ability to love and our ability to make choices. Certainly there are other aspects to this, but these come to mind.
Perhaps Jesus’ response to these and others was due to his ability to recognize a small spark of the image of God in the people around him no matter how buried it was through suffering, abuse and poor choices. Perhaps when he looked at them, he did not see them as they are but as they could be. Jesus, being God, was in a position to restore the image that was damaged by life.
This then begs a few questions. If Jesus could see that spark in the people around him and begin the process of restoration. Why do some of us (many of us?) view ourselves as stuck in our own story of difficulty and poor choices? We may claim Philippians 1:6 as a promise but not live as though we believe it applies to us.
Or, why do some of us fail to see the people around us as Jesus sees them? We can walk through the crowds and look down on the homeless person begging for a few coins. Worse yet, we can be glad that people of questionable reputation do not feel comfortable darkening the door of our church.
Maybe seeing others as the image of God is part of how we can fulfill the command in Philippians 3:3 to regard the needs of others before meeting our own needs. Perhaps with this view, we won’t view anyone as beyond the ability to be redeemed. Perhaps we will be able to get out of our comfort zone and do something significant in someone’s life.
Maybe, just maybe, if we could see people the way that Jesus sees them, the church might be the first place people look to find solace in a crisis. Too often, it is the last place people look in fear of finding nothing but judgment.