Meditations in Meaning & Values 28. Valuing People
Gal 9:5,6 “I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.”
We won’t do much of a recap today, we did that in the previous meditation. Instead we move straight into considering the worth or value of human beings. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes in the first 6 articles, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood, everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms, no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” (We missed out the lengthy article 2 to save space) What do these articles tell us? We respect, honour and value human life. Human beings are important and we should be careful how we treat one another.
Now I am not questioning in any form these articles, for I hope we all accept and subscribe to them, but I do have a question. Much of our Western world rejects God and many would say our only meaning is found in evolution, and humanists and atheists (who tend to be one and the same) say that evolution is about survival and we have arrived at a point where we are sophisticated human beings who now act on more than just instinct. We have developed reason and rationality and so we see that it is sensible, if nothing else, to think well of one another if we are to survive and not enter another world war which would undoubtedly be even worse than the previous two. To survive we need to think well of one another.
But here’s my question: if that is so, what has happened to survival of the fittest which is a key element in the theory of evolution? Observing world politics we may pay lip service to human rights, but where are those when it comes to scrapping over national sovereignty? The Balkan states were in ferment prior to the First World War and nationalism is still rife in that area and may even be behind much of Russia’s posturing in this same area today. Where are the human rights when China or Saudi Arabia or a multitude of other countries actively persecute Christians?
The simple point I would make here is that although we may subscribe to a particular view of people, we so often, as the human race, don’t live by that view. It sounds a good view but it is simply not expedient to follow it because of a spectrum of human dogma across the globe, when other things take priority that may go back to instinctive survival of the fittest or the strongest national grouping.
Simply writing a list of human rights does not mean everyone will keep them. They will not make a child obey its parent or the parent not abuse the child. They will not stop an employer abusing an employee or vice-versa. They will not stop politicians, or any other national leaders for that matter, acting corruptly. Laws may be good in general but a strong adherence to the values underpinning those laws (remember, we considered this a couple of meditations back) will be the only thing that guarantees we treat one other well across the globe and, as we suggested in a previous meditation, we will only hold those values when we see and accept the primary cause behind those values – God. Any and every other foundation gives way. It will only be those who hold fast to God, the loving God of the Bible who reveals His design for us, who will genuinely hold these values – and live by them! Let’s explore that.
In our verse above from Genesis 9, we find the Lord laying down the mandate for mankind. “I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.” That is a strong start. You WILL be held accountable to God for the wrongful killing of another person. We have to add ‘wrongful killing’ because as we investigate this further (and in the next study we will see how God’s values are expressed in the Law He gave to Moses), we will see that manslaughter and ‘just war’ and self-defence are legitimate exceptions to the general rule. The general rule is quite specific, even if today we think we know better and do away with capital punishment: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” i.e. a life for a life. Only in such a way will you honour or respect or value the victim’s life, but even more so, because “in the image of God has God made man.”
That alone is at the heart of valuing a human being. It is because every single one of us has been made in the image of God, we are His design in general terms (and when we get to heaven we’ll see how much God contributes to every individual perhaps). Human beings are not an accident of evolution. IF evolution is the method God used in Creation, it was with purpose. He was involved in every bit of it; if it was a minute accidental change that took place and survived and developed over millions of years (because that IS what evolution says), it was the purposeful act of God, it wasn’t an accident: “In the beginning… God created…” If you object to the concept of God you have nothing less than accidents of history to fall back on, and where we are today becomes pure accident, so any talk of meaning or values is really meaningless with no foundation. If I am stronger than you, survival says I can do what I like to survive, which includes bombing your nation into extinction. If I see you as precious to God, I may think again.
A little while ago I had a revelation. I was struggling to cope with a particular person in my circumstances, yes a Christian who was obviously struggling with life, and suddenly I saw us both in heaven, both transformed and free from the effects of this sinful world. That was not only my destiny, it was also theirs. This present struggle is just that – a present struggle and it will not last long. Death will usher us into the next world free from the effects of this present sinful world. Wow! Not only does God see us both as made in His image, there is going to come a time when we’ll both be transformed. That thought changed how I felt about them. Have you got troubles with another Christian? Think on it. They’re not a Christian? Well add the word ‘yet’. Perhaps they will be one day, and perhaps you and I can help bring that about and they will change. In the meantime, they are still made in the image of God and thus valued by Him. Hmmmm….