Herman Melville writes in Moby Dick of the lack of courage one of his characters (First Mate Starbuck) may display later on in the novel. Read the following excerpt slowly and enjoy the writing:
And while the Christian worldview prompts us to view our fellow man in more of a pessimistic, critical light due to the fall and permanent marring we possess as a result of our original parent's sin, there is no doubt still present in all mankind: inherit, precious value. It is that value which I believe Melville is recognizing in the above passage. Each of us, by nature of our humanity, are stamped with the image of God. Unlike the rest of creation, we are embedded with distinct dignity for the highest purpose of knowing and glorifying God. It is because of this universal image of God on man that we all now possess--from the worst of us to the greatest, from the poorest to the richest—"democratic dignity". Equal value.
This does not mean that mankind is inherently good. Nor does it mean that out of such a "tolerant" view of one another we need to simply coexist and speak nothing of Truth, salvation, or sin. Quite the contrary! It just means that because of the value God has given every human, we should genuinely love, we should genuinely care for humans. All of them. Even those most detestable in our eyes.
For it is because of this heavenly value that mankind is worth cherishing. Mankind is worth valuing. His faults should bring us to tears and draw us to hide our faces. Our inner man should indeed "bleed with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor ruined man." His successes should give us joy. His sin should cause us to cry. His eternal salvation should cause us deepest delight.
Confession: Rather than this devout love for mankind Melville displays in the opening excerpt, I have seen in myself a sort of indifference towards my fellow man. I confess that in my callous impatience, I look at those who turn away from the Lord, or live for self, or continue in willful patterns of self-destruction--and I couldn't care less about them. I catch myself inwardly washing my hands of these lost people: "Have it your own way," I say. "Follow your own path and enjoy your consequences." "I don't care."
But we must all of us eradicate this attitude in ourselves, for it is most un-Christ like. For Christ did not spurn the worst of sinners (who had sinned against Him, mind you), but he ate with them. He loved them, prostitutes and tax-collectors alike. It is Jesus who spoke these words of the city that would soon crucify him: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) You can just picture Jesus as his heart breaks over his wayward children: "Oh I wish you were willing to come to me for refuge and peace! Oh I wish I could shelter you under my wings!"
We need to return to the basics of Christianity. The essentials of Christ's teachings. We need to love the least of these brothers of mine, the poor and the sick, the prodigal sons. We need to love our neighbors as ourselves, not because they deserve it, but because they are humans made in the image of God and Christ has commanded us to do so. Instead of looking down on the base sinners, instead of insulating ourselves from their waywardness--may we love them. May we care for them, cry for them, pray for them.
And may we not love them with the pseudo-tolerance that masquerades as love today. Such love cares only for the immediate feelings of the person. It says, "be happy now and live how you please; we will accept you!" While such speech tickles our ears and panders to our fancies, it cares absolutely nothing about long term joy of the person involved, let alone their eternal home. Like a mother at the store who gives in to her screaming child’s demands for candy—tolerance in the guise of love will sacrifice future well-being for immediate "happiness".
Our love cannot deteriorate to that form. It must care for the temporal wellbeing of our fellow men, but above all, it must care for their greatest need: their souls. For how can love ignore someone’s greatest need? This means that in our communication of love the truth must be ever present. Our kindness and generosity are necessary, but must be followed up with the eternal hope we possess in Christ. True love will not hide the truth under a bushel. As Jesus says:
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." – Matthew 5:14-16