“If this is God’s world, there are no unimportant people” (George Thomas).
ONE OF THE BASIC AFFIRMATIONS OF JUDEO-CHRISTIAN RELIGION IS THAT HUMAN BEINGS ARE CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE. An important corollary of this principle is that all are equally created in God’s image and therefore have equal value as persons. And what this means is that everybody is important. “If this is God’s world,” George Thomas says, “there are no unimportant people.”
Democratic societies emphasize the equality of all their citizens, and this emphasis is one of the crowning virtues of democracy. In our day, however, it seems that many have misunderstood what this equality means. As Irving Kristol has written, “Democracy does not guarantee equality, only equality of opportunity.”
That said, it is nevertheless vital that each of us deal with other human beings as our equals, as far as the image of God is concerned. Remembering that in God’s world there are no unimportant people, we need to act accordingly. Neither you nor I will ever meet a human being who is not as important to God as we are. There may be nothing about a person that is attractive or pleasing to us, and that person may, in fact, have so irresponsibly wasted his life that he stands guilty of serious negligence or wrongdoing. Still, he was created by God, and we need to act on the basis of his worth, not his present condition.
We may as well admit that it is hard to do this. We may flatter ourselves as being more “unprejudiced” than others, but in all likelihood, we simply have a different set of prejudices. Honesty compels us to admit that we — all of us — find it difficult to avoid bias and favoritism. And we find it easier to criticize the prejudices of others than to correct our own. Equality is a hard principle to practice.
In the long run, there is only one thing that can give us the power to practice equality in our dealings, and that is love. I speak here not of the weak, sentimental attitude that many mistake for love, but the strong disposition of will that disciplines us to act in the best interests of the other person, whether it is easy at the emotional level or not. This disposition will love others not because they are lovable but because it is right to do so, they having been created by God.
“It is only in love that the unequal can be made equal” (Søren Kierkegaard).