What Does God Think of You? (The Only Opinion that Matters)
By Pastor Aaron Adame
I am not a politician. I am a pastor. I am not a sociologist. I am a pastor. If I were a politician or sociologist or any other number of “professionals” that people are looking to right now for answers to their hurt, pain and hopelessness, I would be answering from those lenses. But I am not. I am a pastor.
The lenses I was given from my childhood are there—but through my faith in Jesus Christ, they have been clarified and reorganized by the Word of God. I don’t see perfectly or even accurately, but I do see better than I did before I knew Christ. Before, I didn’t value people more than I valued myself. I didn’t treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I didn’t care how others felt. I only cared about myself. It was only through faith in Jesus that all this changed—and is still changing. But like I said, now I am a pastor; therefore, I am here to tell you that the issues we are seeing are not merely political, social, or even racial…the issue is theological. Let me explain:
We know how the Bible starts, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Simple enough for those who believe that to be true. But do you know who the original readers of those words were and why they were given? They were written by Moses to the Israelites as they were escaping 400 years of slavery in Egypt. FOUR. HUNDRED. YEARS. For 400 years, they were worked to the bone. Their identity and humanity were stripped from them. Their cultural fabric was undone.
Have you ever met someone who’s identity has been ripped away? Have you ever met someone who was has been abused and dehumanized their entire lives for things they cannot change? If you have, imagine that treatment being done to an entire race of people for generations. What do you say to a people group like this? How do you breathe life back into souls whose worth has been crushed into powder? I really hope you don’t talk politics or government programs to them—and please, don’t even think about trying the latest self-help program you read about. None of these options will prove helpful. Instead, what they need is a new theology! They need a proper view of God, of humanity, and of the salvation He has promised.
People who are oppressed have one thing over everyone else, which is that they are acutely aware of their powerlessness. To start to heal this self-deprecating perspective is to hear that there is someone bigger than their oppressors—and He is for them!
Moses wrote the book of Genesis to answer the existential questions we’re all asking, but especially those who have suffered injustice and are trying to come out the other side: Who are we? Where did we come from? Is there meaning and purpose to life and my existence? Do we have a future, and if so, what is it? Oh, and one more thing, why is life so freaking hard and painful? Why does this evil exist, and what will be done about it?
Please allow me to summarize the answer Moses gives to people asking these questions right at the beginning of the Bible.
It starts by looking beyond your circumstances and to know that God exists. Not the gods you have created or erected in your heart to numb the pain or serve your passions. But the God who created everything! He created the heavens and the earth.
Have you ever considered how vast and beautiful creation is? God made that! Which leads us to believe He is powerful and beautiful. He made it all in six days and rested on the seventh, setting a weekly rhythm for the race of men, which He created on the last day. The Egyptian slave-masters may have worked the Israelites to the bone, but God gives rest to the weary and a day to pause for joy in the works of their hands. This is what God wants for you—this is what He made for you.
And when He made man, He made them different than everything else He had made—He made them in his image and likeness; in the likeness of God, He made them. Every human being—every race, color of skin and hair and eyes, every language—He made it—after His image. He made mankind in His image so that when we see one another, we are to see a reflection of God Himself. He made man and woman different but equal. A unity in the midst of their diversity. Which is true of every race. God made this and called it good!
Oh, and one more thing, He saved the best for last! Out of everything He made, you are His crowning joy of creation. He loves you more than the stars in the night sky. More than the flowers on the earth, the rivers, mountains and oceans. He loves you more! You and every other person you meet has intrinsic value because they bear the image of God. And all of creation was made by God and for God and because He loved you more. And when He was done, He gave it all to mankind as a gift of His love and grace to steward and share.
He loves you. He has a plan for you. You matter! All people matter (I’ll return to this at the end).
Yet we wonder: If that is all true, why is life so hard? Why do people hate, kill, oppress, exploit, and destroy one another? Why is it that when I look into “that” man’s eyes and see—what I can only describe as—EVIL as he buried his knee in a man’s neck for what seems like forever while others watched in horror and the “other” men did nothing? How? Why?
We are told the answer in chapter three. Evil like this exists because the deceiver came (the one who is pure evil) and tempted Eve to doubt God’s Word and His love for them. He made them think God was withholding good from them. So, they took and ate what they shouldn’t have. And the moment this happened, sin entered the world. A virus and plague so invasive that no secular catechism of “stay home, save lives” would stop its spread. Sin was woven into the fabric of human nature. And the creation itself was fractured. Mankind ran from God out of shame and guilt. The awareness of their fallen condition was too much to bear on their own, yet their condition wouldn’t allow them to turn to God to seek salvation. Pride made humble confession impossible. Their once perfect free will (where they freely chose God) was now enslaved to always and only reject God if left on their own.
This is why evil exists. This is why mankind displays acts of racism and violence and destruction. This is why viruses spread and disease kills. Because our hearts have been twisted and corrupted by sin. We believed the lie of the enemy that God’s Word isn’t true and His heart is not for us, but against us. We ate the poison and death resulted.
This is us! This is our reality. Beautiful creatures who bear the image of God. Yet corrupt and fallen. Twisted and distorted. Diseased and destroyed.
But that is not the end of the story! Because God, the one who we have sinned against still loves us and He will not easily give up on what is His. His love is greater than our sin, and His will is stronger than our fallen will. And in Genesis 3:15, we read that God had a plan all along to save us. To make right what we have made wrong. To set the captives free.
A Redeemer would come and crush the head of the serpent deceiver—the hero we needed. He would exact justice on the oppressor. But as the Bible unfolds and the history of redemption is revealed, we read that God didn’t come with sword and spear. He didn’t come throwing bricks or leading riots in the streets. He didn’t come as a political or military leader. He wasn’t of the upper class—rich and famous. He came in obscurity. He was born in poverty. He was a “low-life” in society.
Yet He was perfect—fully God and fully man.
He was and is everything mankind was made to be and should have been, but wasn’t. He was the new man. And this new perfect man willingly suffered at the hands of sinful men. An innocent man who only ever healed and blessed and taught truth was murdered in broad daylight by the very people who were supposed to maintain peace and justice. He was crushed under the weight of a heavy cross, not for eight minutes but for hours. And it wasn’t the knee of an officer on His neck but the nails of a Roman Centurion hammered into His hands and feet that killed Him. And it also wasn’t the systemic pressures of race but the divine wrath of God that killed Him. God took our place. Jesus did this to identify with the broken, the weary, and heavy laden. Righteousness for the unrighteous. The just for the unjust.
Why would He do this? Why would He risk His own life to help people like us? Isn’t it obvious? Because He loves you! Because no one else could—no matter how hard they tried! He did it to show, not only His power in creation but His power in salvation! He did it to display His grace to the undeserving and His justice to the wicked.
He did it to show that people matter. All lives matter. And until we get that, until we see all people the way God sees people, we will never treat them the way God has treated them—with sacrificial grace and kindness. We will never lay our own lives down for another or consider others as more significant than ourselves. We also must understand and see in this gospel story that Jesus didn’t die just for the masses, but for individuals. He was willing to leave the 99 and go after the one…EVERY ONE MATTERS!
In this cultural moment, in our society and nation, there is ONE group that needs our attention. There is ONE race that bears God’s image being threatened. They have been oppressed for hundreds of years.
Yes, things have gotten better. But so much has stayed the same. And each generation needs to engage in the fight for human value and equality or we will lose it. Christians need to lead the conversation on this. Because only Christians have the greatest vantage point to view human value—God’s vantage point. I am sorry, but if we settle for secular humanism, then racism will live on and even be fertilized by a broken culture.
So, this is my message in this moment: He loves you. I love you! He has a plan for you. You matter to God, and you matter to me! And for everyone else, you can’t truly or fully say that all lives matter until you can first say with me that black lives matter!
Sincerely, a sojourner and stranger; a citizen of a better country