those people

September 23, 2005 | 3 Comments

A few weeks ago in our Bible study, I was talking about how those who follow Jesus should relate to those who don’t. A couple of times I used the phrase “those people”. What an awful way to describe fellow human beings, and thankfully I caught on to what I was saying that night and began to make fun of myself.

The Orthodox ChurchI’ve been reading The Orthodox Church and it offers some great insight on this issue. It gives a general overview of history and theology of eastern orthodoxy. It has been refreshing to look back at a faith which in some ways resembles what much of Christian theology looked like prior to Augustine.

The follow describes some of the orthodox church’s views of humanity:

Because she or he is an icon of God, each member of the human race, even the most sinful, is infinitely precious in God’s sight. … This respect for every human being is visibly expressed in Orthodox worship, when the priest censes not only the icons but the members of the congregation, saluting the image of God in each person. ‘The best icon of God is the human person.’

St Antony of EgyptWhat a meaningful way to see the value of every person! What if we never attempted to make distinctions between who is in and who is out? Who is true and who is not? No matter how far from God it appears anyone might have wandered, one can never escapse the fact that they are created in the image of God, and that still exists as a part of who they are.

Just to mess with your brain and mine, here’s a few more thoughts from the same book to really stretch the concept further:

Orthodox religious thought lays the utmost emphasis on the image of God in the human person. Each of us is a ‘living theology’, and because we are God’s icon, we can find God by looking within our own heart, by ‘returning within ourselves’: ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21). ‘Know yourselves,’ said St Antony of Egypt. ‘…He who knows himself, knows God.’

  • Andy

    Interesting thoughts. I’m a big fan of the image of God in us and all that entails. I really track with the 1st part you talked about that. That last quote is a little off though IMO. I think that God’s image in us gives us clues (very Eldredge-ish) that point us to look to Him. We’re still in need of redemption from sin though, and these things are at best clues, that hopefully will cause us to return to Him, not to us. It’s a small quote though, so the writer of it might totally agree.

  • I’m Orthodox and I understand what the author is trying to say but am having a hard time trying to think of a way to explain what he means to someone less familiar with Orthodox theology. Orthodoxy definately doesn’t think the source of salvation is in the individual. As far as redemption from sin, attend an Orthodox service during Lent and you will see penetential prayers like you’ve never seen. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I think the author would agree with you. 🙂

  • Nektarios,
    Thanks for your comment…glad I did some justice to your theology.

    Good insight…As you have revealed, I have only talked about a portion of their view of humanity, and it is far from a humanistic view of salvation. If I have a chance, I’ll try to post more on how orthodox theology reveals mankind’s deep need for Jesus.