My home sits on a lovely boulevard in Winnipeg.
The oaks and ashes provide hours of entertainment for the dozen or so children on the block. They climb through branches, set up lemonade stands under the canopy of leaves and parade their bikes past the tall trunks. As a parent, I enjoy watching my children and their friends build a sense of camaraderie.
I like my neighbourhood and I like my neighbours.
I like the way the adults parent their children, care for their homes and find ways to reach out in friendship – including dropping off an occasional bag of apples or pot of soup on my doorstep.
I enjoy the times we stand outside on the boulevard, ten of us chatting until dusk envelopes us, on subjects as diverse as politics, hockey and teaching.
These neighbours are dear to me. Why? Because they were made in God’s image. Because they are part of God’s “good” creation. Because I long for them to know the freedom Jesus offers. And because they’re simply interesting people.
Sharing good news
When I consider the gift and call of evangelism (Ephesians 4:11, Matthew 28:19–20), I think it’s essential to have a heart for my neighbours who haven’t yet received the good news of Jesus. It’s essential to love them. But I also think it’s important to like them.
When we like people, we build bridges of friendship. We’re more inclined to listen well, speak with grace and engage in meaningful conversation. We look through eyes of trust rather than suspicion.
The opposite is true when we don’t really like people. We tend to run roughshod over them or stand in judgment. We view them through eyes of fear. We may even be hurtful or destructive.
Human dignity and value
Last month, our communications team visited the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, the first national museum established outside of Ottawa.
In each gallery, the same lesson was repeated: human rights start with a sense of respect and value for each human being.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood,” says the 1948 United Nations Universal Human Rights Declaration.
The lesson I learned in Sunday school was strikingly similar: each person has value because they were created in God’s image for a specific purpose, accentuated by the fact that Jesus modelled sacrificial love for each one, calling all Christians to follow his example.
Thomas K. Johnson, in a series published by the World Evangelical Alliance, provides this helpful explanation of human rights from a Christian perspective:
The Bible tells us that God is very concerned about how people treat other people because he has made all people in his image. He sees an attack on other people as an attack on himself.
Therefore, we should do all we can to protect other people. But because of human sin, we and all people have a tendency to destroy other people. One of the results of sin is that people often think of other people as less than truly human and think they themselves do not have any sinful tendencies that need to be restrained.
In order to protect other people more effectively, we need to use every opportunity we have to talk about the value of other people because they are created in God’s image, while also talking about the need to restrain the sinful tendencies within all people. There are two sides to the biblical view of a person, and both sides must be remembered.
I pray that I will be someone who defends the value and dignity of others, treating all people well. I pray that I will embrace my neighbours Rick and Karen and Jessica and Jeff – each one made in the image of the Creator – as if I were greeting Christ himself.
And I pray that as I share the good news with them, I will do so out of a genuine spirit of “like.”
About this issue:
November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
In Canada, there are thousands of children, including infants, waiting for adoption via the public or private systems. However, the majority of children in the public system are over the age of six. Of the more than 78,000 children currently in government care, nearly 30,000 are eligible for adoption.
With these facts in mind, we decided to bring readers a small sampling of adoption stories from our MB churches.
Some families choose to adopt infants. They tell stories of years of waiting before dreams of parenthood are fulfilled – and how the struggles have built greater patience, faith and trust in the Lord. (See: A diamond of great value)
Other families choose to adopt older children. They tell stories of learning to better understand the Father heart of God toward the poor and broken in spirit. (See: It’s not about adoption; it’s about the gospel.)
Some families – and even entire churches – support crisis pregnancy centres, helping at-risk mothers who bravely choose life over abortion. (See: Church is here for Moms.)
Woven throughout these stories is a common thread: each one of these families is finding practical ways to live out the “Spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15) while sharing the good news of Jesus with “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). That’s worth celebrating this November.