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If my people, who are called by my Name, humble themselves and pray (Part One)

The text, for those who have trouble with a rather individual cursive, reads as follows: Scandal after Scandal. No institution safe....

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Respecting the dead - no matter who they are.

Whilst watching the news yesterday, the BBC interviewed a middle-aged man who asked why he should respect Margaret Thatcher in death when he had not respected her in life, or it might have been that she had not respected others when she was alive. 

Leaving  the claims and counter-claims to the verdict of history, it seems to me that there is a fundamental question about whom we should respect at the heart of this, and whether the dead are part of that category of those who should be respected.

There are those who like the Unjust Judge fear neither God nor man. It would seem that there are far too many like him in today's world. But fear is not the best of reasons for respect.

As with all things, we need to begin at the beginning, to wit: Genesis 1:26-27 . We are all, male and female together, created in the image of God. That needs some thinking about. I do not want to debate here what that means in terms of our make-up. I want to discuss what that means in terms of our status before God and before mankind.

If someone comes into your house and destroys your favourite picture of someone you love, how would you feel about it? When we sin against God or each other that is what we do. If I discover that you have been sticking pins in an image of me, it might not have had any magical effect on me, but it is certainly going to change my attitude towards you, if only because it reveals your heart, or, possibly, your mental state.

If the destroyed picture is precious enough, I may take the pieces and keep them together in a safe place. They are precious because they are an image of the beloved.

In Christian and Trinitarian terms, no matter how marred that image, we are precious because we are made in the image of God, the Beloved. Death is the final insult to that image and it caused Jesus to weep.

In Jewish terms, we are still in the image of the Almighty God, King of the universe. This is enough to raise the head of the lowest of sinners because even he or she is in His image and humble the proudest of princes because we are all sinners.

Respect is due to the person who bears that image, not because of the deeds or misdeeds of that person but because of the One whose image we all bear. This is the fount of ethics, justice and fairness. We respect them, because we respect Him; we love Him, because He first loved us.

If we are not made in the image of God, then we are worth only what we can earn and others are prepared to pay. If we are in the image of God, then we must live according to our full value and the worth He has placed on us. 

A corpse is the physical remnant, the mortal remains, of one, who in life was made in the image of God, no matter how marred that image.  That is why we treat the dead with respect, even when they are not known to us, let alone out of respect for those who grieve.

The fool who dances on the grave of one he considers his enemy demeans himself and disrespects the One who made them both.

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