If there is one constant question that plagues humankind, it is the recognition of his or her existence by a supreme being. There are other questions that afflict the hearts and souls of men and women. Some are every bit as pressing as this one such as why do bad things happen to good people, how come there is so much injustice in the world, and so on. It is very easy to throw out glib responses to these soul-searching queries, which drive at the heart’s concern regarding purpose or meaning in this world. For example, “of course you have a destiny in this world. You’ve been created in the image of God. What on earth leads you to believe otherwise?” If I am honest with myself, there are numerous things that I could point to in my experience.
There really is nothing wrong with telling someone that he or she has been made in the image of God. The issue at hand is that it comes off as too tidy of an answer. It is thoroughly biblical to say that all men and women have been created in the image of God. This comes straight out of the creation account in the first book of the Bible and the first chapter (Genesis 1:26-27, ESV). I have responded this way in the past to folks who wondered about their purpose or place in the world. Many times I failed to recognize their question as an honest revealing of a deep longing within their heart. At some point, it will be necessary to give them theological responses, but there is a heart connection that needs to ground them.
Men and women need to know that I have listened to them regardless of whether or not they like me. In fact, not everyone will like me, so I need exhibit a strong dose of humility. I am not the be-all, end-all of existence for those in my life. What I have in my possession are two ears and a heart for listening and caring. How I listen and care for others must fall in line with the way Jesus did it. His life serves as the pattern to shape and guide mine as I listen and care for those in my life. Make no mistake, there is truth and error and it is imperative that I know the difference. I have no desire to live life as a blind guide, who leads other blind people into a pit. The light of Christ and his word must dwell within me in addition to being expressed through me (Psalm 119:105; John 8:12, ESV).
When I reflect on Christ’s command to let my light shine, it is vital to recognize that I must go into the darkness or into dark places (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV). This means that I need to go where the hurting, the broken, the lost, and the seeking are dwelling. It is true that those living in darkness may find any amount of light blinding. The response to the light may be one of revulsion, but some may adjust to it with time. This calls for patience and humility on my part, especially in the case of the man or woman searching for answers to deep longings. I do not know where someone is at with respect to their life’s journey. It is slanderous for me to presume that someone, or anyone, is beyond the light of life (John 8:12, ESV). If I judge someone’s heart in this way, then I have acted in the place of the supreme Judge (James 4:11-12, ESV). This is extremely thin ice in the eyes of the Lord.
I find it crucial and humbling to obey the following passage: “…[be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15b-16, ESV). It is not easy to give an answer with gentleness and respect as the culture grows increasingly hostile toward Christians and the Christian faith. There is a tendency to fight back or lash out; however, this is not how Jesus responded to the insults and persecution directed at him. If Jesus is my example, the image that I’m being conformed to, then I must be ready to face insults, persecution, and injustice as a bearer of his light. Something tells me that I should expect the same in my life.