Almost 20 years ago, I walked through the Killing Fields near Phnom Phen, Cambodia. The guide’s voice and narration are still fresh in my mind. He gave descriptive details of the brutality in which the Pol Pot Regime of the Khmer Rouge murdered so many and how the victim’s bodies were thrown away in these fields.
I remember the sun shining as I bent over to pick up what I saw blowing in the breeze below me. I quickly recovered and stood back up. What I instinctively reached for was a tattered piece of cloth buried in the ground. I left it where it was laid.
The tattered cloth was a remnant of a life that was killed and tossed into the field we now walked upon. As we walked, I spotted so many more, constant reminders along the path, of the many lives that were discarded. Each one, a brother or sister, was a priceless image bearer of God.
Life is sacred.
Humanity bears God’s image, woven into the fiber of our breath and being. Every life, every person, bears the image of God. To desecrate the body in brutal and violent ways is a malicious evil assault against God. To participate in and perpetuate dehumanization of any brother or sister of humanity is a malicious evil assault against God.
Life is sacred.
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was brutally murdered for our redemption. He prayed to our Heavenly Father, “… that they may be one as we are one … so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22b-23a).
This prayer echoes throughout the epistles of the New Testament. From Philippians 2:2 (“… make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind”) to Ephesians 1: 9-10 (“he made known to us the mystery of his will…which he purposed in Christ…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”).
We are reminded of the barriers of distinction in the original cultural context of Ephesus, the first hearers of the letter of Ephesians, who struggled with the hostilities of division, of ethnic backgrounds woven and layered into their faith. This letter implores the listener, to be reconciled with one another, unified by Christ’s power: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility….For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together…And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:13-22).
Life is sacred.
In the midst of our current times, as hostilities divide, we too take heed to the message portrayed. We recognize the tattered cloth, waving in the breeze along the paths we walk, constant reminders of many priceless lives discarded in our times, in our communities, in our society, in our world. There are too many to count.
The reason why brutality upsets humanity, ignites passion of protest, of standing together opposing crimes against humanity, is because life is sacred. We belong to God and are designed to belong in community, every brother and sister joined together, through every stage of life. God’s Spirit actively engaged, binding us together, building us in unity. We are not designed to bear arms against one another, to use violence in word or deed. We are designed to bear one another, in love. To use our image-bearing arms of compassion, mercy and grace to uphold one another. To flesh out God’s kingdom here and now.
Life is sacred.
We are not defined by national allegiances, political parties, societal constructs and temporal cultural codes. Our eternal citizenship is to God’s kingdom, as members of God’s household beside every brother and every sister — each of whom is an image bearer of God. As such, we cannot stand idle when evil assaults. No more with the finger pointing and name calling. No more with the labels and dehumanizing condemnation. No more with the selfish complacency that ignores the brutal realities of the suffering and justifies rage against those who protest injustice. No more preferential treatment to those who accept the sacred cows of white nationalism and white supremacy. We are created to be devoted to one another in love, humbly honoring our brothers and sisters above our own selves. We must renounce lies and reject ideologies we have embraced as truth, that are not. We must embrace the act of repentance, not as a free pass from responsibility or consequence, but to propel us into the Holy Spirit’s transforming power to become all our Creator has designed us to be.
We must not conform to the evil dehumanizing wall building patterns of this world but be transformed by the Holy Spirit renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). Choose this day whom you will serve, with your heart, your mind, your sacred life. And live accordingly.
Rev. Lexa Ennis is co-pastor at Broadview Wesleyan Church in Broadview, Illinois.