Whose Image is On You?

One of the most beloved Christian apologists, Ravi Zacharias was laid to rest last week after an aggressive battle with cancer. He will be remembered as a man that was always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asked for the reason for the hope that was within him (1 Peter 3:15). When people had the toughest of questions, Ravi answered each of them with wisdom and truth. Conveniently, his recent passing has flooded social media with some of his most memorable talks, Q&A sessions, and quotes. One of Ravi’s favorite events regarding the life and ministry of Christ happened when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in his words to cause political discord by asking if it was lawful for Jews in Judea to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asked for a coin to use during an object lesson. Holding the coin, Jesus asked, “Whose image and inscription is on the coin?” “Caesar,” they answered. Jesus wisely responded, “Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:22 says, “When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” Ravi loved to propose this insight at the end of this story: “The disingenuousness of the questioner is noticed in the fact that he did not come back with a second question. He should have said, “What belongs to God?” And Jesus would have said, “Whose image is on you?””

The disappointing reality of systemic racial inequality against African Americans has caused many in our community and country to reflect on the state of things and to seek a right path forward. As members of the Christian church, we believe we know the most effective path forward because lasting hope is only uncovered in Jesus and heinous hearts are only changed by believing in the gospel of Christ. When it comes to uniting people, Jesus is the greatest bridge we know. When it comes to our sin problem, Jesus fully restores, justifies and reconciles us to God by his substitutionary atonement. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.” Because we are the children of God, we have the opportunity to speak the truth of God’s Word into this urgent situation where it needs to be heard. There is no season in which the gospel is irrelevant, nor is there a time and place in which it cannot bear fruit. Thus it is wrong for the church to be silent on this issue, and we have been called by God to stand for justice, peace, righteousness, and truth. And so we ask with Ravi Zacharias, “Whose image is on you?” Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This week, we will look at two ways of how this biblical statement should embolden believers to stand against the injustices affecting people of color in the United States of America.

  1. Whose image is on African Americans? Black lives matter to God. Celebrating the worthiness of black life is not new territory for our ministry which includes African American men and women in our community and campus, but we gladly reaffirm what we have always believed as Christians, that humans of all melanin contents per cell have an equal and divine dignity, and this merit graciously covers all of us who share kinship to our father, Adam. Humans are the only creatures on earth chosen by the Lord to reflect his likeness. God Almighty has taken interest in people of every color. John writes in Revelation 5:9 that “by (his) blood Jesus ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Truthfully, desegregation was God’s idea before it was man’s, “for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him (Romans 10:12).” Specifically to people of African descent, in Acts 8 an angel sent Philip to a black man from Ethiopia. This man was reading the book of Isaiah while sitting in his chariot, but he had not yet heard of how Jesus fulfilled the words of the scroll in his hands. So the Holy Spirit led Philip to share the gospel with this man. The Ethiopian was eager to believe in Christ, and with joy and haste he was baptized as soon as his eyes saw water, but first the God of heaven eagerly sought him because black lives matter to God. African Americans are made in God’s image, and he secured the eternal destinies of a multitude of black souls by dying on a cross for them. Black lives matter on earth because they matter in heaven.
  2. Whose image is on you? Ravi Zacharias summed up his insight to the story from Matthew 22 this way: “Give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar; give to God that which belongs to God. God’s image is on you.” So how should you respond to this biblical truth? Give yourself to God. When you belong to the Lord, he calls you to a higher standard of obedience. He calls you to recognize and stand for the dignity of black lives. He calls you to make disciples of people who may not look like you until every shade of skin bows to the King of kings. He calls you to speak the gospel into a broken world so that the words “Jesus is Lord” will be uttered in every language. He calls you to support the straightening of crooked systems that oppress our black neighbors. He calls you to remove all barriers within your power that separate you from your black Christian brothers and sisters so that you may experience the fullness of church fellowship with them. Give yourself to God, Christian, lest we lose this golden opportunity to show the world how to love each other.

Scriptures to ponder: Romans 12:15-18; Acts 10:34-35; Mark 3:5; Colossians 3:11-17; James 1:19-2:4