Respecting the Image of God

for the week of February 19, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

Earlier this month in Omaha, police officers were trying to talk a man off a highway overpass. He was wanted on a domestic violence warrant and was threatening to kill himself by jumping. As the conversations continued over the space of four hours, the Van Halen song Jump could be heard over police radios. Lyrics to the song include: "Might as well jump. Jump! Go ahead, jump."

The man was talked off the overpass, and a police spokesman said he could not have heard the music. But Police Chief Don Carey initiated an inquiry into the situation immediately. He was offended by someone's insensitivity to a life-and-death situation and pledged to get to the bottom of it.

"We hope this isn't one of our officers, and if it is they will be dealt with very swiftly," said police spokesman Sgt. Dan Cisar. Other public safety agencies in Omaha have access to the frequency on which the music was played. There is also the possibility, of course, that it was transmitted on a lost or stolen radio.

When I heard the story of this incident, it made me wonder about my own sensitivity or lack of it to people who are hurting, confused, or just downright wicked. I find it all too easy simply to dismiss the last group. And sometimes I'm just too busy to notice or take time from my crowded schedule for the others. I wonder if that doesn't put me in the same category with the scoundrel who would play "Might as well jump. Jump!" as background to a potential suicide.

Every time you and I contact another human being, we have the chance to honor God. Since God's image is in each of us, the way we treat one another either affirms or defaces that likeness, helps repair or erode the divine image. The most appropriate way for us to show that we love and honor God is to protect the dignity of people who have been created in his image.

Remember the scene of judgment Jesus described in Matthew 25? He pictured himself welcoming into his Father's kingdom those who were hungry, thirsty, strangers, sick, or prisoners. Not only the victims but those who have victimized others need to know that somebody cares about them.

When clients or customers, friends or family, strangers or enemies come into your line of sight today, try to look at them and know the image of God comes attached to each one. Then treat that likeness with the utmost care and respect.

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