Christians are often accused of being pompous, arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant. Often, Christians find their own Scripture being quoted back to them. The most commonly heard verse is:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)
From those leveling these accusations at Christians, there is truth in what they say, but there is also error.
In this series, I will be exploring these accusations, and analyzing humility, tolerance, and related ideas from a biblical worldview, ending the series by analyzing the much-used (and over-used) passage of Matthew 7:1.
To begin, we must talk about human worth…
#1 – A Biblical Case for Human Worth
All People are Image-Bearers
The writers of the Bible teach that all humans are made in the image of God, and thus, all humans and all human life has great value.
In the creation account, Genesis 1:27 tells us,
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Gender, race, nationality, religion, or even belief or unbelief in God doesn’t matter. According to the Christian worldview, all people are image-bearers of God.
Further, a person’s value is not based on whether he or she is handicapped (physically or mentally), young or old, friend or enemy, or inside or outside the womb.
Nor is our worth based on our social standing, economic status, or sexual preference. This means that lawyers, politicians, warlords, porn stars, reality show stars, cops, rappers, rapists, teachers, garbage men, janitors, fast food workers, CEOs, oil tycoons, pimps, Islamic terrorists, white supremacists, toll workers, and MMA fighters are all made in the image of God.
Unfortunately, that image has been warped by sin. (And this is extremely important to always remember.) Despite this, all human life is priceless because all humans are image-bearers of the one true God.
The implications of humans as image-bearers can be seen in Genesis 9:6, where we’re first told because humans are made in God’s image, we’re not to commit murder:
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.”
Most of us (fortunately!) have no problem with following this command, but James, in his New Testament letter, applies this biblical truth in a way that we’re all much more likely to struggle with:
“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” (James 3:8-10)
So, because we’re all made in the image of God, we shouldn’t just murder, but we shouldn’t even “curse” others. The clear ramifications of this teaching is that we should not even speak harshly about others.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also warns against insults and name-calling (Matthew 5:21-26). The Greek word often translated “insults” is “raca,” which is a term of abuse, a term that degrades people. “Raca” suggests that the person insulted has no value.
Jesus is teaching against dehumanizing others. To dehumanize someone is to not recognize that person as an image-bearer of God.
If fact, Jesus equates this sort of anger and hatred of others to murder. Before murder becomes a physical act, people often “murder” others in their mind (and with their mouths) by dehumanizing them:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 7:21-22)
Furthermore, we also have this statement by Paul in Galatians 3:26-28:
“…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
As modern Americans, we cannot even grasp how groundbreaking and scandalous this statement was in Jesus and Paul’s time. And though this verse speaks specifically of the equality and fellowship among Christians, as we can see from what we discussed above about all humans as image-bearers, respect of others (at the very least), even non-Christians, is a biblical value.
Along with the above teachings, we also have the commands to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:31), to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44), and to even do good for those who hate you (Luke 6:27), all commands Jesus highlights in the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
The Real Good Samaritan
Being a “Good Samaritan” has become a phrase in modern English to denote a person who practices kindness to strangers, but the deeper meaning of the parable is lost on modern audiences because they don’t know the full context.
In a discussion in Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer sums up the whole teachings of Scripture as,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus says he is correct, but then the lawyer challenges Jesus by asking,
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then tells a parable: A man, a Jew, is attacked, robbed, and left for dead by the side of the road. Two Jewish religious leaders walk by without helping him. But then it’s a Samaritan who stops and cares for the attacked man.
People often pick up on that the hypocritical religious leaders left the man there to die, but they don’t realize just how shocking it would’ve been to Jesus’ audience that a Samaritan stopped to help him. The Jews and Samaritans absolutely hated each other! It was a hatred that was deep and bloody.
We’re not going into the history here, but think of the hatred between modern Israel and Palestine; think about the hatred between the Bloods and the Crips; think about the hatred between white supremacists and Black Panthers. The hatred between ancient Jews and Samaritans was strong.
Jesus ends the parable and asks the lawyer:
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He [the lawyer] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Thus, what is Jesus’ answer to, Who is my neighbor? Your enemy. Love your neighbor. Thus, love your enemy.
Finally — and most importantly — God showed just how priceless all people are by becoming a man and being tortured and murdered on a cross for all people. God did this so we can be free for the penalty of our sins and spend eternity with him. (But, it’s also important to note that though God did this for all people, it’s still a gift that must be accepted.) Thus, all people have eternal worth to God. And if every person has eternal worth to God, they should all have the same worth to us.
Thus, we come to our first biblical concept…
CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.
NEXT: #2 A Biblical Case for Christian Humility