Why each and every one of us matters: “There are no gradations in the image of God”

By Dave Andrusko

As it happens I am leading a class that is plowing through a delightful and thought-provoking book by New York Times best-selling author Tim Keller. The Rev. Keller is, of course, a near legendary figure in evangelical circles.

While I was doing some additional background reading, I ran across a keynote speech delivered by Keller at the 2018 National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in Westminster Hall, London.

In his remarks Keller quoted from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s July 4, 1965 sermon, “The American Dream.” Keller argued that it is the Christian understanding of the uniqueness of every human being that served as the underpinning for the very idea of human rights.

Here’s the quote he cited from Dr. King:

You see, the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.

Secularists, of course, can make the same equality-of-life argument on a different basis. And we are glad that there are many secular pro-lifers.

But, as Dr. King eloquently explained, when we affirm that each of us is made in the image of God, it gives us a transcendent worth and dignity that is not dependent on whether someone decides to give us that.

Our worth is not doled out to us. Our worth is ours by inheritance.

Put another way, there are many threads that have been woven together to make up the fabric of what we call the sanctity of human life. But the principle thread, I would argue, is that we believe with every fiber in our bodies that each and every human being is unique.

Each of us matters.

None of us is disposable.

None is more valuable than any other.

Each of us is unique.

By unique we mean one of a kind. Every single one of us is irreplaceable.

Back to Dr. King’s sermon, specifically that there are “no gradations in the image of God.” What a statement! Human worth is not valued on a sliding scale. When there are graduations, there lies madness.

The great apologist G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “All men matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe.”