Seeing God In a Human Face
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I stood inside the gate with the sign reading, “Arbeit Macht Frei.”
The images I had seen grieved my spirit beyond words: the cell where Father Kolbe had given his life in place of another, the piles of human hair, suitcases, crutches, and the pictures of experiments made on human bodies.
I walked the path into the showers where thousands of human lives were gassed and saw the ovens where their bodies were burned.
All the while, asking the same question over and over: How can one human being do this to another?
Thirty years later I was stood in wooden shack asking the same question.
The simple structure was one of many buildings on an old plantation in Tennessee.
The manor house was beautiful; filled with lovely furniture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century; crystal chandeliers adorned the parlors; and wall paper of that era decorated the rooms.
The stark difference from the simple wooden house in which I was standing could not be more apparent.
The occupants of the stark wooden home were black skinned, so they had no comforts and lived with barest of necessities.
From my perspective, the air was pregnant with the question, “How can one human being justify such treatment of another human being?”
The justification of these actions was established in two judicial rulings, almost one hundred years apart.
- The 1857 Dred Scott ruling of the United States Supreme Court declared African-Americans to be less than human and mere chattel to be “governed as subjects with absolute and despotic power” owned and traded at the pleasure of the master.
- The Nuremberg Laws of 1935, by the Nazi government of Germany, declared Jewish, Romani and Black people to be inferior human being who defiled the German blood line.
Appalling as these rulings may be to our senses and reasoning today, the same kind of decisions are made in the heart of anyone who discriminates or debases another person.
Whether it is someone of a different skin tone or ethnic origin; or it is a person of the same race but with a different social standing; when we diminish the worth and value of that human being, in our heart, we are committing the same horrible act.
This is dramatically illustrated in the life the Patriarch Jacob.
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, yet vastly different.
Jacob was a thinker; we would call him a nerd today. Esau loved the outdoors; worked with his hands; and loved to hunt.
Jacob was the favorite of his mother but was cunning and crafty. Esau was the favorite of his father; held the rights of the firstborn; and brought his father wild game to eat.
Jacob schemed and stole the birthright of the first born from his brother.
Jacob also participated in a plan that stole the father’s blessing from Esau.
The anger, bitterness and vitriol became so great between the two brothers that Jacob fled the home and went to live with an uncle.
Years later, Jacob made the decision to move back home after being successful in business, again through deceit and cunning. He was now very wealthy but broken before God.
Knowing he was going to face the brother he had extorted, he humbled himself and prepared a large gift for his estranged brother, to serve as a peace offering.
The meeting of these grown brothers was not filled with anger and bitterness. Rather, the approach of Esau was one of kindness and surprise.
“What do you mean by all this company that I met,” he asked Jacob? “These are to find favor in the sight of my lord,” Jacob answered.
He was no longer the cheating, deceitful, brother climbing to the top.
He was humble and contrite.
His wrestling match with God transformed his life.
“I have enough, my brother,” Esau responded, “Keep what you have for yourself.” Indeed, Esau was a very powerful and successful man in his own right.
He was happy to see his brother return home, but was expecting, no doubt, to find him the same person.
Nothing could have prepared him for the Jacob he met that day. He was a new man with a new name, given to him by God. The response of Israel, that is Jacob, to Esau must have been stunning.
“No, I pray you, if I have now found favor in your sight, then, receive my gift from my hand. For I have seen your face, and it is as though I have seen the face of God, with you have received me favorably. Please take my blessing that has been brought to you…” (Genesis 33:10-11 MEV).
Jacob’s words are profound. “For I have seen your face, and it is as though I have seen the face of God.”
The wrestling match with God had so transformed Jacob’s heart, he no longer viewed another human being as someone to con or someone standing in his way of succeeding.
He saw their worth and value as a person.
Esau was no longer his competitor for attention; competing for parental love or for the family fortune. He was a brother to love.
His heart was filled with honor and respect for the man he had once conned and cheated.
Seeing God in a Human Face
Seeing the face of God in another human being is not saying they are deity. Mankind is not on a journey to karma and godhood.
Seeing the face of God in another person is declaring they are created in the image of God and they have great worth and value.
As David proclaimed in Psalm 139:14, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (KJV).
When we allow that image in a human being to dim or to become displaced, so that we only see a person by their skin color, their ethnicity, their social standing, or the benefit and pleasure they can bring to our life, we commit a horrible sin.
All bigotry has its origin in this sin.
Physical and sexual abuse has its root in this sin.
Pornography and prostitution are founded upon the sinful belief that the value of a human life is based upon the amount of pleasure they can bring to a person.
Abortion, infanticide, medical assisted suicide and denial of medical care to the elderly and the disabled are justified through the mistaken belief the pre-born are mere fetal tissue with no life value and the infirmed or aged no longer have quality of life or make a valuable contribution.
Embracing evolution, even theistic evolution, instills in the mind and heart the homosapien world view of mankind.
It removes special creation of the man and the woman in the image of Almighty God. Human beings are no longer viewed “as though I have seen the face of God.”
They are merely the survival of the fittest life form.
Special classes of people deserving of the place of honor and value are now determined by those having the political clout and the strength of force to subjugate all who are not like them.
Almighty God declares otherwise.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:26-28 NKJV).
The human race is special created in the image of God.
Human beings are elevated above all other life forms on planet earth, under the earth, and above the earth.
Mankind alone is given the delegated authority to rule and to have dominion over all that God has created. Every human being has worth and value deserving of honor and respect.
When you see a woman in all manner of un-dress, whether on a magazine cover or in person, view them “as though I have seen the face of God.”
When you see a man or woman of color and different ethnic origin or of social standing, see them and think of them “as though I have seen the face of God.” That is how God sees them.
When you see them with that perspective, lust will not fill your heart; hate and bitterness will not fill you; and anger will not rage within.
You will see them with the eyes of God.
You will value them with the same love that drove Jesus Christ to the cross.
Read Part Two: When God’s Face is Disfigured