I’ve been reading an epistolary novel by Marilynne Robinson named Gilead. I’m not sure I will read more of her, but epistolary writing appeals to me. Think C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. That is an epistolary novel…a book written as a letter. I’ve always thought that if I were to ever write a novel, it would be epistolary. I don’t know why; to be honest, I think mostly because I don’t feel creative enough in plot structure and character development. I’ve read too many high quality novels to think I could reach that level. (And please don’t think I could reach the level of Lewis’s Screwtape Letters either. His levels of thinking are phenomenal. And you kids know by now…since I was your English teacher…that I say to become a good writer, you have to be a good thinker. I’m working on the latter and dreaming of the former.)
In Robinson’s Gilead, the pastor-character writes this to his young child, “…it is godlike to love the being of someone. Your existence is a delight to us.” In context, the pastor-character was reminding his son to be honorable to people. He goes on to write, “…at the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object.” I paused a considerable amount of time at reading those words. The cure for our own prejudice in others (this often is what justifies our dishonoring them) is to remember they are sacred, set-apart creations of God. No matter their filth. No matter their vulgarity. No matter their culture. No matter their ethnicity. No matter their poor decisions. No matter their political positions. No matter their education. No matter their faith. All mankind exist because God wants them in His story, and people and persons cross our paths because God wants them in our story, which is His story.
So Jonathan, Peter, Olivia, Belle, and Summer…every person you encounter today God is inviting you to honor as a person of value, no matter if he is living an honorable life or not. Value is not defined by action or a price tag but by meaningfulness of the owner or buyer. We know from Scripture that God loves each of His creations (John 3:16). We know from Scripture that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Romans 10:12-13). We know that each person bears the mark of God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We know that God sent His Son to die for every person (1 John 3:16). We don’t own mankind so we can’t set the value. Only God. And He has set the value price of mankind quite clearly in Scripture.
The problem is we have grown up in a world that thinks we can set the value of certain people and persons. History tells us we have made grave mistakes in this area. Current news and missionary stories tell us we continue to devalue mankind through the injustice of bias, objectifying, and human trafficking. Prejudice sneaks in. Christians can get on their high horses and sound Pharisaical. Americans can hop on their stumps and sound quite entitled. We all make poor assumptions and assessments of others. If only we first see them as God sees them — made in His image, worthy of His Son’s death, loved by Him, and wanted by Him. Every. Single. Person. Meets. This. Criteria.
We all have people in our life who rub us the wrong way…I call them sandpaper people. They hurt. They are rough. They scrape. They cause friction. But think a moment, what block of wood doesn’t get better with a bit of sandpaper? In my 29 years of existence (go ahead, roll your eyes), I know I’ve been sandpaper to some and I’ve experienced some sandpaper pressure from others. Nonetheless, no sandpaper-person deserves our dishonor.
I’ll reserve another post to write about the little and big things of dishonor. For now, remember every word, joke, action, reaction, or no action are reflections of our value system. I want to be godlike in how I honor others. I want to align my value of others with God’s value system. I want to love the existence of others–not just their presence on earth, but their presence in my life. It doesn’t start by giving money to a homeless man; it starts by seeing that homeless man as a person of value. We could continue with the examples…prisoners, co-workers, children, politicians, unruly students, driver in the car next to me, etc.
What I do know is that your existence is one of my greatest delights. When I read Robinson’s words, I quickly thought of each of you. I love your being, your existence in my life. God honored me by gracing me with the five of you. Now, go be godlike in your honor of others.