A few weeks ago, Hemant Mehta, aka the Friendly Atheist, posted a story on Twitter about Christians behaving badly. He posted it with the comment: “Jesus has very bad taste in humans.”
Many Christians would probably agree that Jesus has bad taste, including the apostle Paul, who described himself as the chief of sinners; and John Newton, slave trader turned abolitionist who wrote the famous lyrics: Amazing grace / how sweet the sound / that saved a wretch like me.
Jesus’ contemporaries also accused him of having bad taste in humans. They called him a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
But Jesus had some insider information as the creator of all humans: God created all humans very good, in the image and likeness of God. Psalm 8:5 says we are made “a little lower than God, and crowned with glory and honor.”
We are, each of us, a beautiful, unrepeatable miracle, formed by God in his* image and likeness, worth the air we breathe and the space we take up.
This is not to say we humans always act like beautiful, unrepeatable miracles. Sometimes we act in reprehensible ways, even going so far as to blame God for our choices to hurt others.
Jesus loves us not because of those harmful choices, but despite them.
Those things we do that hurt others or the world (or “sins”) can conceal, but not damage, God’s image in each of us. Imagine Michelangelo’s David, covered in mud. The good and beautiful is still there, under everything, but it would look offensive.
When Jesus looks at us, he knows our true value, even if we have covered it over with hatred or anger or sorrow, and our reactions to those things, and he loves us because he knows who we are under all that stuff we put on to protect ourselves.
When we see one another covered in mud, we may miss the beauty in each other and try to pry the mud off each other, leading us to feel attacked, or to attack others we see as mud-monsters.
Ironically, it’s only the rain of love that washes off the mud of who we pretend to be instead, so we can be seen for who we are.
So maybe Jesus does not have such bad taste in humans after all. Maybe humans just have a harder time seeing the beauty of God in each other … and in ourselves.
May we be freed of the mud we’ve covered ourselves with to protect ourselves and instead rest in the love of Jesus, and may we see others as Jesus sees them. Amen.
This column appeared in The Herald-Palladium on October 30, 2021.
*The article I submitted said “God’s image and likeness,” but the editorial staff at the HP changed it to a gendered “his” without consulting me.