Hello all, it’s been a while since I last wrote to you. Since the last time we spoke, I’ve enjoyed a Thanksgiving break from school, a trip to Chicago to visit family, and a pleasant re-entry into the last leg of the Fall semester. There’s also been lots of lots of homework, hence my long absence. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves in the meantime and have been growing in grace!
Recently, I’ve been working through an excerpt from Calvin’s Institutes that has been published as an independent booklet called, A Little Book on the Christian Life. Essentially, it’s a basic introduction to living the Christian life on a day-to-day basis.
In it, Calvin remarks that part of every Christian’s life is treating others well. That’s a basic fact that I think all of us as Christians embrace (or at least try to embrace). But I think that many of us, myself included, haven’t stopped to think deeply about why exactly we are required to treat all other people, no matter who they are or how they treat us, the way we want to be treated. At least, we haven’t thought much further than, “Jesus tells us to.”
But, you might say, isn’t that enough of an answer? If we know Jesus told us to love others, why should we probe deeper into the why of that command? I think there are two primary reasons. First, digging deeper into the why of loving others can actually help us better put our knowledge into action. Blindly following a command will yield far less heart change and outward action than if we understand at the core of our being why we are doing what we are doing. And second, digging deeper into the why of loving others reveals a profound truth that can change the way you see your spouse, your unsaved co-workers, and your fellow church-goers. Let’s dig into that truth now.
I’m going to quote Calvin at length here, then we will unpack a little bit of what he says. Calvin says, “The Lord instructs us to do good to all people throughout the entire world, many of whom are unworthy of such good if judged by their own merit. But Scripture comes to our rescue with the best of reasons for doing good to all people. It teaches us not to regard others according to their own merits, but to consider in them the image of God to which we both honor and love.”
So, essentially Calvin says that even though many people in the world are unworthy of any show of affection on our part, nevertheless we should show it because they are made in God’s image. He even says that this is the “best of reasons” to do good to all people!
Ponder that for a moment. And then picture a few of the people in your life who you’d rather not show love or do good towards. Right now, maybe it’s a boss at work who doesn’t seem to know how to be nice, or maybe it’s a person in one of your community college classes who breathes too loud during the lecture and always interrupts with useless questions.
Maybe it’s a family member who is antagonistic towards your faith and uses holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas to try and engage you in debate. Or maybe it’s just that really weird person that we all seem to know – that person who doesn’t get social cues and who always seems to come up to chat with you at the most inopportune times, when you really don’t have time for a long conversation.
Whoever that person may be, when you see them, what do you see? A waste? An annoyance? An obstacle? A person to be avoided?
Or do you see the image of God?
Do you see somebody God knit from the womb? Somebody God desires to save? Somebody God longs that you would show the affection of Christ to?
Admittedly, my impulsive response is to see those kinds of people as a waste of my time and unworthy of my love or good works. Maybe you’re there too. But they are endowed with the image of God just as much as we are and as such, we are obligated to view them with that in mind.
As Calvin said, we need to see them according to, “the image of God to which we both honor and love.” We don’t have time to unpack all that entails, but I think at the most basic level it means seeing them as people who are more than just faces in the crowd. They are unique individuals who God takes a personal interest in.
Next time you see someone, don’t see them as just another face in the crowd that you have the right to treat how you see fit. See them as a precious being created in God’s very own image who is worthy of love and your good deeds. Once we start seeing people like this, we will start loving people properly.
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