Recognizing the Image of God
The key to respecting others in ministry
By Matt Burke, Missionary, Uganda
It’s amazing how a comment can affect you. When I was a high school student, my principal casually said, “...when you are in college....” I don’t remember the conversation, only that phrase. High school was a struggle for me, and college was just a dream. I wanted to go, but seriously doubted my abilities. But something about the way he said those words spoke volumes to me. He believes in me. And he said it with all of the cool confidence of someone who knows!
This idea of respect is vastly important in ministry—in missions here at home or abroad. We unconsciously convey varying levels of respect to those we interact with every day. If our expectations are low, that might be exactly what we get. But Scripture does not allow us to operate this way. Genesis tells us: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27 ESV). How amazing it is that God designed us to be image bearers. All of His creation was good, but when He made humans, His model was Himself!
Of course, as we minister to people, we are confronted with the ugly effects of sin. The image that we see is marred, often beyond recognition. Everywhere we turn, we see people living in poverty and people struggling with addictions and sin cycles. Low self-esteem touches every level of society. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that they bear the image of God, even to the point where we write them off. We engage in practices that create dependency. But that is not the way of Jesus. To a group of fishermen who were caught in a great storm, Jesus asked, “Why are you so afraid?” The implication was you don’t need to be afraid. He expected more from them. Throughout Scripture, we see God and His ministers calling people to a higher level. We see Jesus inviting us to live the abundant life.
This is why we love serving as trainers in Community Health Empowerment in Uganda. CHE is discipleship within impoverished communities. Respect is a central building block of the training as it recognizes the image of God in people who have been written off. It offers hope. It fights to break cycles of dependency. Participants are challenged to view themselves and their communities with God’s eyes. With newfound hope, people are discovering God-given local resources and solutions to the problems they face. The transformation is remarkable and very satisfying. Ministry success hinges on recognizing and respecting the image of God in all people.
PRAY: Pray that Jesus will be lifted up and glorified through Community Health Empowerment initiatives. Pray that national CHE workers will be equipped to reach out to their communities and spread the gospel.