All things being equal, there’s not a lot of difference between any of us. In fact, we’ve got more in common than we have that’s different. I’m amazed at the utter uniqueness of us all, but take away our faces or the distinguishing differences of race or ethnicity and everything else seems eerily similar.
A few years ago the well-traveled exhibit “Bodies Revealed” was held at Union Station. This exhibit featured bodies donated by persons from the Republic of China that presented a startlingly unique way for us to see ourselves. These bodies were preserved through a polymer process that gave the viewer a chance to see an actual body from the inside out. Each body had had the skin removed and each organ had been treated and preserved so the entire body was exposed.
What can we learn from this? It’s apparent that stripped away from our outermost organ of skin we look largely alike. We can be tall or short. We can be a red head or a blond or have finely curled black hair. We can have freckles or wrinkles. We can have the varied hues of darkened skin of Hispanic or Indian or African-descent or we can have the paler skin of Anglo-European descent. We can have delicate features or we can be blocky and blunt. Others can consider us as pretty or plain. And yet in the end, all those things are merely the outer accoutrements that distinguish us from one another merely by our outer appearances.
Sit in a place where large numbers of random persons are passing by and it’s stunning to realize that with 6.6 billion persons and counting, there are a mind-blowing variety of appearances just in our faces alone. In all our varieties we may be the snowflakes of God’s created children, but underneath it all we are all cut from the same pattern.
Strip us all down and what you discover is with all that random variety, we are still very much alike. The notions of inclusion or exclusion we insist upon enforcing in our world based upon physical characteristics alone therefore become intriguing. All of us, the Hebrew Scriptures tell us, are created in the image of the Creator (imago dei as it’s known in the Latin).
Strip us down to our skivvies and take away our distinguishing masculine or feminine features and we’re united by this simple truth: We are all created in the model of God’s own being. While I do not understand all this means, I realize the truth of Imago Dei means something essential about how God has created us and that humbling truth coaches us into a new way of relating to one another.
Does a mother look into the newly birthed face of her child and experience a strange and wonderful tug of looking into the sweet new face of the one who bears her image? Likewise, does the father see some unspeakable beauty in the child he holds in his arms? I think the divine Creator looks into the face of each of us on the day of our birth and exclaims, “My goodness! That’s one beautiful baby!” simply because we bear something beautiful about the Creator’s own image.
So how is it we reject anyone simply because of the color of their skin or the wave of their hair or the structure of their frame or for any other arbitrary reason we choose to distinguish one from another? Exclusions based on appearances, on internal differences of intellect, or social boundaries of ethnicity or class or orientation or any other human boundaries, are falsely made and stand in judgment of what the psalmist understood when he wrote: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”