Putting Words in God’s Mouth

Our world is becoming an increasingly scary place in which to live.

In 1999, the world was shocked and grieved when two students gunned down thirteen of their peers in Columbine, Colorado; nobody would have thought then that the phrase “another mass shooting” would, over the next 19 years, become part of our lexicon. By now, though, we have a routine: hear about a shooting, grieve briefly, then immediately release meme after meme pithily laying blame on the idiots who could have prevented it.

Among all the memes I’ve seen floating around online on the heels of the Florida shooting, one grabbed my attention and grieved me tremendously. Perhaps you’ve seen it:

At best, persuasive memes entertain but do little (if anything) to promote civil conversation. At worst, they promote strife and cause great harm. This one, I believe, can do nothing but harm.

First: God has made it abundantly clear that we are not to add to His Word. Although this is only a T-shirt and not a Bible, the designer obviously felt qualified to presume what God would say if questioned by this “concerned student” and to share this message with the world. Even if we could assume that this is truly what God would say if He chose to speak audibly, we would still be in the wrong by spreading it as confidently as if it were straight from His Word.

Second: Would God truly respond in this way if questioned? Would He want US to do so? Consider 1 Peter 3:15: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

People are looking at the evil in the world and wondering: Why does anybody have hope? How can God allow such suffering? These are huge questions, huger than I can tackle in today’s blog post, but they are worthy of more than just a sarcastic, dismissive retort. They merit gentleness, respect, and the compassion that God feels when He sees the brokenness of the world — a world He loved so much that He sent His own Son to save it.

Third, and last for today: What kind of theology are we perpetrating if we suggest that these hundreds of deaths have occurred because God abandons those who abandon Him? As a Christian, could I look in the eyes of a parent whose child was just tragically torn away and say, “Well, if prayer were still allowed in schools, your kid would still be alive”? A thousand times, no! The school system may squelch religion, but a classroom consists of individual souls, and God sees and knows intimately each and every one.

Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear — and church history bears it out — that those who follow Christ are not immune to suffering. We need only look back at the church shooting in Texas, or the one-room schoolhouse shooting in Lancaster County, to see that evil befalls those who follow Jesus as well as those who want nothing to do with Him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Fellow Christ-followers, we have so much more to offer the world than sarcasm, curtness, and victim-blaming. If Jesus is the only one who can truly heal our broken world, one soul at a time — and we know He is! — then we have a sacred responsibility. Let us look at those who hurt through His eyes…and gently show them how much He loves them.


Searching for Significance: When It’s Time to Stop

Being a writer is just the worst.

Think I’m kidding? Okay, maybe I am exaggerating. Certainly I’m making a blanket generalization based on my own very limited experience. But I do mean it, at least sometimes, at least for myself.

The thing is, most people with a passion for writing have been inspired by the work of others. Whether it be Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, John Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, or one of scores of others, authors show us the power of the written word and ignite a passion within us to harness that same power — to entertain, to persuade, to inspire. Fueled by that passion, we set out to follow in their footsteps.

Most of us soon find that becoming a household name is out of our reach. WAY out of our reach. We trudge stolidly along, putting heartfelt words out there, getting a few readers, and we wonder: Should I be doing something else? Honestly, if only a few dozen people will ever see and remark on my words, am I wasting my time? Does this matter?

Do matter?

Before I go on, let’s revisit my first statement for a minute; after all, this is not a post about writing (believe it or not). What it should say is:

Trying to do anything influential is just the worst.

In truth, all of us seek significance in some way, and many of us, I believe, wish we could have tangible confirmation that what we are doing is important. For instance…

  • The pastor of a small congregation whose eyes are constantly on bigger churches and John Piper-like recognition.
  • The homeschooling mom who dreams of being the It Homeschooler like Sarah Mackenzie or Susan Wise Bauer so she can know she’s influencing more than just the small troop of little ones within her own home.
  • The baseball coach who knows, deep down, that he “could have made it big.”
  • The concertmaster of a local orchestra who secretly wonders: if it’s not the Philadelphia Orchestra, what’s the point?

Questions such as these haunt me in almost every aspect of my life. I know I’m not alone, because I’ve read approximately five hundred blog posts and articles about how we all have a purpose in life and each one of us is important in the eyes of God and He’s given us dreams for a reason. This is all true, and worthy of acceptance. HOWEVER…

A time comes at which we have to move past this. Why this constant need for reassurance? I am speaking very directly to myself here, and if anybody else has similar struggles, feel free to listen in — but be warned that the answer may hurt a little.


I want people to recognize me. I want to know, through the affirmation of others, that I am important. I want people to know that I am accomplishing big things because, goshdarnit, people have heard of me. In other words: this striving for significance is, in the end, all about me.

Those are ugly confessions, but without acknowledging them, I will remain stuck. And when I’m wallowing in my pride, pining for more confirmation that I’m significant, I fail to properly love those who are in my circle of influence.

When friends comment on how much they were encouraged by one of my blog posts, it means God has used my words in somebody else’s life. What right do I have to say that’s not enough? Do those friends, then, not matter? That would be awful, and of course I think they matter…but my eventual dissatisfaction with my small sphere of influence indicates otherwise.

God has given me a desire to write, and the ability to do so with reasonable aptitude. If I squander His gift to me — or, using it, nonetheless feel constantly discontent and ungrateful because I compare myself with Ann Voskamp or Philip Yancey — I emulate the faithless servant of Matthew 25 who, upon receiving only one talent, buried it in the ground and went on to make excuses by criticizing the master who entrusted him with it.

Pride manifests itself in so many different forms, but its consequences are never pretty. My particular brand of pride leads to discouragement that I’m not getting hundreds of “views” for each blog post instead of gratitude for those who do regularly read and thoughtfully respond. It leads to halfhearted interactions with my children as I daydream about being something more. It means I crumble inside when I see that somebody else is a much more capable musician than I am.

Pride, as long as I cling to it, means that I fail to love and bless those in my small corner of the world…because I’m too preoccupied with my own importance to give myself fully to others.

Most of us who know Jesus and recognize the Imago Dei in ourselves don’t need more confirmation of our own value. We need to rest in our identity as loved children of God…thank Him for the gifts He’s given us (big or small)…and then use them faithfully — not for our own glory, but for His.

In Your Self-Control, Perseverance

It’s funny how God sometimes uses seemingly disparate elements of our lives to teach us something. Throughout the past week, various items from different aspects of my life lined up and seemed, mysteriously, to be pointing at the same thing.

A book about nutrition and exercise.

The prophet Haggai.

…and a homeschool physics lesson.

Confused yet? Let me back up a bit.

One of my new favorite things is audiobooks. A long car ride, a monster cleaning session with my kitchen, and a monotonous treadmill workout all go much more quickly when I have a book to enrich the time. My current listening material: Made to Crave, a book about learning to satisfy our desires with God instead of food, by Lysa TerKeurst.

While running and listening a few days ago, I was surprised to hear the author mention the book of Haggai. First, because it’s only about three pages long and therefore not exactly prominent (way to dig into the Word, Lysa!); second, because it’s the book I was about to read in preparation for my monthly Women’s Bible Study. What a coincidence! Here’s what she quoted, where the prophet is speaking in verses 1:2 and 1:3:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “This people says, ‘The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.’ ”

…Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in paneled houses while this house lies desolate?

What is Haggai talking about? You see, after years of exile in Babylon, the Israelites had recently returned home, and God had stirred their hearts to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1,5). After an enthusiastic beginning, God’s people experienced some opposition, and the work halted…and sixteen years later, they hadn’t ever gotten back to it.

Sixteen years!?!

This is where the science lesson comes in.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force; likewise, an object in motion will remain in motion unless — you got it — acted upon by an outside force. This proclivity towards continuing in one state or the other — briefly stated — is called inertia. As my children and I studied this the other day, conducting various experiments to illustrate it, I was once again awed by the way everything in the physical world seems designed to illustrate some deeper truth about life’s more intangible realities.

The Israelites began building because God’s prompting — the outside force — had set them in motion. For a time, they obeyed gladly, and the work moved forward. Then, however, another outside force — opposition from neighboring peoples — discouraged God’s people, and the progress stopped…and that was it.

Would they have eventually resumed their work if Haggai hadn’t delivered God’s message to them? As Aslan once told Lucy, “No one is ever told what would have happened“; however, if we consider human nature and the way inertia permeates our own lives, we can make a pretty good guess. Let’s be honest: for most of us, changing the course almost always feels like more effort than it’s worth. When the thought crosses our minds that perhaps we should take action, we silence that inner prompting by telling ourselves “the time has not come.” Especially if we are able to look back at good decisions we’ve made in the past, we don’t have much trouble soothing ourselves with promises that we’ll eventually take action…but for now, like the guy in this video clip, we’ve earned a reward and an indefinite break.

“I need to take better care of myself, but…I already had a doughnut today, so I might as well have this cake now.”

“I know I should spend less time on Facebook, but…things are so hard right now, I need an escape. Later, sure, but this isn’t a good time for me to limit something I enjoy.”

“I haven’t spent time alone reading the Bible recently, but…life has been so busy. I’ll get back to having devotions, but this really isn’t the season for it.”

Embracing inertia, I’ve realized, is always the easiest thing. The opposite of inertia? Taking action. Making the choice, again and again, to do the thing God is asking us to do.

Most of us can manage to eat a salad for lunch one day; to put down the smartphone for an afternoon; to pick up the Bible one morning. But making these choices in the face of setbacks? After a few setbacks? The apostle Peter provides some encouragement for those who desire to pursue godliness, but haven’t made the decision to correct their paths:

…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

…Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness.

(II Peter 1:3, 5-6, emphasis mine)

Self-control, as I often tell my kids, means stopping to think…then making the right choice when we feel like making the wrong one. For many of us, self-control looks like taking action when it’s more comfortable to remain at rest — or putting the brakes on an ongoing behavior or heart attitude that hinders a close walk with God.

Perseverance, then, means making a habit of choosing rightly — and, when we inevitably stumble, turning right around and making the right choice the next time.

Easy? No. But that’s why we rely, not on our own strength, but on the divine power God so graciously gives us. And by persevering, one day at a time, we will find that God Himself is the “outside force” who is infinitely more powerful than our inborn inertia.



Homeschooling and the Myth of the “Real World”

Homeschoolers encounter a lot of skeptics.

In choosing to reject the status quo, we accept the fact that we will face questions. Are you trained? How will your kids get into college? WHAT ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?!?

Even the most confident among us — even those who have solid answers for the above questions and more — can feel cowed when confronted with somebody who clearly finds us odd (and maybe even dangerous). And so it was that I recently found myself desperately trying to sound coherent (but not defensive), confident about my children’s prospects (but not critical of other educational choices) when a well-meaning person asked me:

“How are your children going to be prepared for the real world?”

My answer had something to do with how I get my kids out and about quite often, and the statistics about how well homeschoolers do in college, blah, blah, blah…but, as is so often the case, I spent days afterward mulling over the conversation and analyzing my response and basically wondering why I’m such a wimp. And here’s the question to which my mind kept returning:

What, exactly, IS the “real world”?

For the majority of American kids, the real world, for thirteen years, is public school.

For plenty of kids, though, it’s private school.

For an increasing number, it’s home education. (And, incidentally, you can bet that the children of most celebrities are in this group, though with a pricey private tutor instead of mom or dad).

The real world, however, is so much bigger than any of that.

This summer, our family participated in the Read the World Book Club. Each week, along with thousands of other families, we’ve learned about a different region of the world through reading picture books — fiction and nonfiction — from that part of the world. We’ve watched videos about the land and culture, and experimented with recipes from around the globe. Throughout the process, our children have come to understand the vastness of the world…and the smallness of our corner of it.

The truth is, everybody’s experience is limited. The “real world” consists of so much more than children experience in any educational setting. And the last thing I want to do is teach them that everybody is exactly like they are.

Photo by by sandeepachetan.com

I want them to know that many people in the real world don’t eat different food every day.

That many children in the real world don’t know how to read, and if somebody gives them the opportunity to learn, they will do anything to make it happen.

That throughout the real world, people live in deserts, mountains, and jungles. They live in huts, high-rise buildings, and tents. They travel by camel, by canoe, and on foot.

That there are many more ways of living life than we could ever grasp…and that every person who is living it has thoughts, feelings, and dreams. That, in encountering people who differ from us, we can probably learn much more than we will ever learn in any classroom…or at home.

How am I preparing my children for the real world?

By helping them to understand that school, no matter where it takes place, represents such a tiny portion of life, both in space and time. Once we’ve put in our thirteen years…that’s when we go out into the real world and see where we fit into it.

One in Christ: Why We Should Reject Denominational Snobbery

One of my favorite Christian jokes goes something like this:

A guy dies and immediately is brought before St. Peter, who, after checking the guy in, gives him a walking tour of heaven. They pass a group of people singing and dancing and shaking tambourines, and St. Peter explains that they’re Pentecostals. Presently, they pass another group of people solemnly reading Psalms in unison from little books; St. Peter explains that these are Lutherans. As they approach a third group – this one sitting in a large circle and praying in turns – St. Peter whispers to the new arrival, “Ssh, those are the Baptists. They think they’re the only ones here.”

Here’s the funny thing (Baptists, stay with me here): this sense of superiority is hardly limited to one denomination. Born to parents from the Free Methodist church, raised in a Presbyterian church, currently attending a Baptist church, and sister to members of Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to different denominations. While I’m far from being an expert on the doctrinal minutiae of each one, I do feel qualified to make some sweeping gross generalizations — specifically as pertaining to how members of various denominations regard the others. Here’s how it breaks down, as I see it:

  • Baptists: “We have obeyed the Lord by following Him in believer’s baptism. Anybody who believes in infant baptism clearly doesn’t love Jesus and is probably not a Christian.”
  • Presbyterians: “We have captured the essence of Scripture in our creeds and in the Five Points of Calvinism, and we know what we believe and why. Nobody else has a proper reverence for God.”
  • Lutherans: “Our services are immersed in Scripture, and our prayers consist of carefully-considered words instead of the chance ramblings of the flawed human leading the congregation. Those other people don’t really take the Bible or worship very seriously.”
  • Free Methodists: “We believe that salvation is evident from the fruit in a person’s life, and a lack of fruit means you should probably get saved again. Most denominations believe in cheap grace.”

On one hand, I get it. After all, the various denominations wouldn’t exist in the first place if their founders — and adherents — didn’t feel strongly about certain interpretations of the Bible. On the other hand…I get a bit tired of the lack of grace extended across denominational lines. Okay: very tired of it.

It was over three hundred years ago that German theologian Rupertus Meldenius proposed the following principle:

In essentials unity;

In non-essentials liberty;

In all things charity.

Frankly, I don’t see that last phrase applied very often…and I suspect it’s due to confusion over the first two phrases. What are the essentials? From what I’ve seen, it seems that certain devout members of varying denominations consider everything to be essential. It reminds me of this cartoon:

We live in the era of “progressive Christianity.” Its adherents are legion; they talk at length — especially in political contexts — about what Jesus would do and what He taught. However, as Dwight Longenecker explains in the article linked above, “their religion is a historical accident of circumstances and people…Jesus Christ is, at best, a divinely inspired teacher…the Scriptures are flawed human documents influenced by paganism [and] the church is a body of spiritually minded people who wish to bring peace and justice to all and make the world a better place.”

With Christianity becoming widely understood as consisting of the nebulous characteristics described above, I believe it’s crucial that members of various denominations acknowledge that they do, in fact, agree on the essentials. While a treatise on the exact nature of divine inspiration, the basis for our biblical canon, and the development of the theology of historical Christianity is WAY beyond the scope of one blog post, I will posit the major points here (and welcome further discussion if you are interested in learning more). In her book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, Natasha Crain delineates the following five biblically-based essential Christian doctrines:

  1. One God: “To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deut. 4:35; see also 6:4; Ex. 20:3; Is. 43:10; 44:6).
  2. The Deity of Jesus: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58; see also Ex. 3:14; John 10:30; 20:28; Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 2:9).
  3. The Resurrection: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14, see also 15:17; John 2:19-21).
  4. Salvation by Grace: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9; see also Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:21; 5:4).
  5. The Gospel: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4; see also Gal. 1:8-9).

Each of these doctrines, of course, can be espoused only if one accepts as truth the words of II Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Although some churches within every denomination have chosen to downplay Scripture and consequently minimize or deny one or more of the aforementioned doctrines, plenty of churches — within various denominations — are still committed to faithfully interpreting and proclaiming God’s revealed Word. Given the tumultuous nature of our times, I find it just plain silly (at best) to look askance at brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with us on what we must acknowledge to be non-essentials. We are one body (Rom. 12:3-5, I Cor. 12), and we should behave as such.

Here’s the truth: I know and love quite a few people who are not Baptists, yet DO love Jesus and ARE Christians. I know and love quite a few non-Presbyterians who revere God and know what they believe. I know and love plenty of non-Lutherans who take worship seriously. And scads of non-Free Methodists who understand that true salvation will produce fruit in a believer’s life.

It’s fine to draw conclusions — based on prayer, study, and the desire to honor God — about what set of non-essential doctrines seems to make the most sense. After all, if we go to any church, it will be one that falls in line with a certain denomination (even if it shies away from saying so). But it’s NOT fine to then look out the window at everybody else and look down on them because they’ve landed somewhere else.

Friends, remember the essentials. Proclaim them fervently. And if we admit that the other things are non-essentials, then we truly will be displaying the unity that should characterize the body of Christ.

To Share Jesus with Millennials, Let’s Start by Not Mocking Them

If there’s anything people enjoy these days more than watching cat videos, it’s making fun of Millennials.

And why not? Decrying the foibles of the upcoming generation is a time-honored tradition, and with Millennials, it would seem that there’s more low-hanging fruit than ever. How can we not poke fun at an entire generation of people who spend every waking hour staring at expensive black rectangles which enable them to remotely interact with faraway “friends” who have painstakingly edited their online lives before posting them on their own shiny black rectangles?

It is pretty hard to resist. And I’ve seen some pretty clever satire out there…and “LOL’ed,” as the kids say nowadays.

Increasingly, though, a question has been nagging me: As a Christian whose mandate – and deepest desire – is to share Christ’s love with others, is it truly God-honoring for me to deride many of those very people I hope to reach?

The answer, I hope, is so obvious as to be superfluous.


In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul instructs his readers regarding how they ought to commune with various groups of people:

Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. (I Cor. 10:32-33)

For missionaries traveling overseas, this is only natural. If I am a missionary who wants to share the Gospel with, for example, a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea, I will first seek to understand its culture. Are they reserved or gregarious? Are they task-oriented or people-oriented? What does family life look like? All these questions, and more, will inform my approach to telling them the good news of the Bible.

And yet somehow, we have trouble applying this to the culture that surrounds us here and now. While we wouldn’t dream of joining a missions organization, planting ourselves in a foreign land, then proceeding to mock the people there for their worldviews, cultural norms, and cherished values, we feel perfectly free to do exactly that with the culture in which most of us live. Instead of giving no offense, as Paul instructs us, we ridicule an entire generation for its apparently unconscionable quirks…then wonder why they don’t want to hear about Jesus.

Christian friends, we can – we must – do better than this.


In the fourth chapter of John, Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman who has come to draw water from a well. In the course of their conversation, He tells her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst” (John 4:13-14). When she eagerly responds that it would be great to never have to come draw water again, He explains that what He offers is living water — the gift of new life through Himself. His words echo those of the prophet Isaiah:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;

And you who have no money come, buy and eat.

…Why do you spend money for what is not bread,

And your wages for what does not satisfy?

…Incline your ear and come to me.

Listen, that you may live.

(Isaiah 55:1-3)

In every generation, in every part of the world, people are seeking fulfillment. Some have sought it in athletic achievement; some, through financial success; others, through acceptance by peers…the list could go on, of course, but what we always find is that none of these things ultimately satisfies, and as long as we expect them to do so, we must keep going back to the well.

Today, the well is shallower than ever…but, in the short term, more immediately satisfying than ever. As Simon Sinek points out in the video below (which is well worth the fifteen minutes, in case you’re wondering), the generation we call “Millennials” is heavily influenced by the self-esteem movement, which — news flash — was NOT initiated by Millennials. As children, “they were told that they were special — all the time — and that they could have anything they want in life — just because they want it!”

Conveniently, their transition into adulthood coincided perfectly with the advent of social media…which, used carefully, reinforces that childhood feeling of being special with comments and “likes.” The feeling produced by social media notifications is caused by a chemical in our brains called dopamine — the “exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, and when we drink, and when we gamble; in other words, it’s highly, highly addictive.”

At the end of the day, however, most people will admit that this constant gratification — one that must be fueled by diligently crafted posts on Facebook, Instagram, and so on — fails to provide what we truly need.

“Everything you want, you can have instantaneously — everything you want, instant gratification – except job satisfaction and strength of relationships; there ain’t no app for that. They are slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes,” says Sinek. Because of this dearth of deeply fulfilling relationships and sense of purpose, depression and suicide have increased alarmingly; and of those who don’t fall into these worst-case scenarios, many will still find themselves “growing up and going through life and never really finding joy.”

Jesus harshly rebuked the self-righteous religious leaders of His day, but He wept for the lost. Should we not do the same?

Millennials are no different from the woman at the well…or from the nations of Israel and Judah…or from anyone who has ever sought fulfillment and found that every earthly pleasure was, in the end, fleeting.

Let us heed the words of Paul, and the example of Christ, and meet people where they are.

Let us see not a generation, but individuals.

Let us seek to understand what individuals are looking for.

And let us lovingly, graciously show them that Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy their thirst.

Broken, But Beautiful

As long as evangelicals have been handing out Gospel tracts, the Good News For the World they’ve communicated has clearly been: “Jesus died for you, because you’re a sinner.”

Concise. Attention-grabbing. And theologically, not incorrect.

Theologically, though, it’s not complete either.

In an era when morality is almost entirely subjective; when, based on this nebulous morality, most members of modern society consider themselves to be basically good; and, most importantly, when we’re willing to share and consider only those ideas that can be summed up in 140 characters or in a catchy meme; it seems only reasonable to boil Christianity down to what appears to be the essentials.

The question is: are those the essentials?

Almost. But not quite.

Recently, a missionary-in-training visited our Sunday school class to share his future plans and describe how his missions organization functions. One distinctive of this organization, he explained, is that its missionaries (who visit remote tribes that often lack a written language, let alone a Bible) share Christ by beginning with the book of Genesis. After all, he pointed out, it’s hard to understand the concept of sin — or one’s subsequent need for a Savior — without an understanding of who God is, who we are in relation to Him, and why, therefore, sin matters to Him.

It makes so much sense. And what I wonder is: why should we present the Gospel any differently, right where we are? After all — to state the ludicrously obvious — the Bible begins with Genesis. Surely God wouldn’t have inspired its authors to record the details of Creation (as well as the entire Old Testament) if He considered everything before the book of Matthew to be frankly inconsequential. And if He wants us to know about the details of Creation, He must have a purpose in sharing them with us.

Take a look at Genesis 1:27:

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 

And His assessment a few verses later:

And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Gen. 1:31)

What do these verses tell us? That God made us in His image, and that what He created was good.

What does this mean for us? That we are worth something to Him. In her book Total TruthNancy Pearcey perfectly encapsulates the typical approach to evangelism and points out why it’s incomplete:

Consider the typical evangelistic message: “You’re a sinner; you need to be saved.” What could be wrong with that? Of course, it’s true that we are sinners, but notice that the message starts with the Fall instead of Creation. By beginning with the theme of sin, it implies that our essential identity consists in being guilty sinners, deserving of divine punishment. Some Christian literature goes so far as to say we are nothing, completely worthless, before a holy God.

…In fact, it is only because humans have such high value that sin is so tragic. If we were worthless, then the Fall would be a trivial event. When a cheap trinket is broken, we toss it aside with a shrug. But when a priceless masterpiece is defaced, we are horrified. It is because humans are masterpieces of God’s creation that the destructiveness of sin produces such horror and sorrow.

…Beginning with sin instead of creation is like trying to read a book by opening it in the middle: You don’t know the characters and can’t make out the plot.

So why does this matter?

I suspect that the frequent overemphasis on our sin nature emerged as a reaction to modern society’s firm belief in its inherent moral goodness — the belief that, in fact, when Nietzche declared God to be dead, sin died along with Him. It is well and good that we counter this with the truth: that all of us are tainted by sin, and that only by believing in the necessity of Christ’s death and resurrection can we be restored to a relationship with a holy God (Rom. 3:23-24). But if we start and end there, we show a lack of understanding of ourselves…and, by extension — because we are made in His image — of God.

Imago Dei. It means that we are more than animals. That we have souls. A will. Creativity. A sense of the beautiful. A sense of right and wrong. When mankind fell, every facet of personhood was poisoned by sinbut not lost. 

When somebody gives food to the homeless, he reflects God’s image, whether he realizes it or not.

When somebody cares for an ailing parent, she reflects God’s image, even if she denies His existence.

When people gather to clean up a town devastated by a hurricane…they reflect God’s image, even if they believe they don’t need Him because they are already good enough.

Without the imprint of God, none of us would be able to do good, and when we share Christ by telling others that every good thing they do is utterly worthless, what we are really intimating is that they are less than human.

How much better it would be if we shared the whole story:

That God created something beautiful — His children, the pinnacle of His handiwork…

…that tragedy befell, and His children rebelled so that the beauty was marred…

…that, instead of punishing His children by making them strive ceaselessly for a holiness they could never fully attain on earth, He sent a Rescuer…

…so that those who realized where they came from and saw that the original beauty, though still there, was forever tainted, needed only to acknowledge Him…

…and that when they confessed their need for the Rescuer, they could throw themselves into the open arms of the One who loved them from the beginning of time.