Wisdom for centuries has challenged us to see the image of God in others. The earliest Jewish and Christian texts point us there and the spiritual masters do too. They tell us to look carefully and find the hidden nobility planted in each person we meet.
Reverence for human personality marked the ministry of Mother Teresa:
All my time belongs to others, because in dedicating myself with all my heart to the suffering, it is Jesus whom we serve in his disfigured face, for he himself has said: “You have done it for me”…
Another master, John Wesley, pointed this out to us too:
“You have well night lost your zeal for works of mercy as well as of piety. You once pushed on through cold or rain, or whatever cross lay your in your way, to see the poor, the sick, the distressed. You found out every scene of human misery, and assisted according to your power: Each form of woe your generous pity moved; Your Saviour’s face you saw, and, seeing, loved.”
So why do we find it so difficult? Why when it comes to our ordinary, everyday lives, do we have problems seeing the image of God in the homeless, in the rich, in jails even in communities of faith? True, we humans leave a lot to be desired. If we are honest, we must admit that even after trying hard, we all struggle to see even the image of God in ourselves.
So how do we get there? Do we focus on our nobility first? On others? Like any virtue, we can not change ourselves. We have to join in the ancient flow of the universe, which seeks to make us into people of faith, hope, and love. This means keeping our eyes and ears open to the messages embedded in every disappointment and joy we encounter. Yet, we can also join in the process. We can first come to realize that all is not well if we struggle in this arena. We can mediate on our nobility and others in a mysterious cycle. We can ask God to open our eyes.
Yet, what is most important in the challenge to see the face of God in every person we encounter is a simple humility. When we give ourselves to this life, rather than trying to take what is rightfully ours, we find deep mystery wrapped in skin and bones. When we give some effort to perceive the nobility in others, we engage in that benevolent circle of life that strangely runs on 10% of our effort and 100% of God’s.