“The Value of the Individual,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
Many people place a value on others solely on the basis of their wealth and status. For example, men and women who are seeking a marriage partner will ask, “What school did you go to?” or “What job do you have?” or even “What car do you drive?” For many people, how the other person dresses and their overall appearance are extremely important. Since marriage is to some extent a “business,” or at least an economic partnership where mortgages have to be paid and children supported, these are legitimate questions and inquiries. However, this sort of thinking is incorrect and misguided even though it is very prevalent. People are valued and judged in our society on a money basis. In fact, when people no longer earn money, their value deceases in our society and in our system.
The Christian view in this respect is quite different. It is different in two ways. For one, it is the Christian position that God created every person who was ever born or will be born and that God places equal and, in fact, ultimate value on every person regardless of wealth, sex, race, gender, or sexual preference. The value that God and Christ place on each of us is incalculable and cannot be measured in human terms. It is perhaps somewhat disturbing and a source of disagreement to many if not all of non-Christian people that the church opposes abortion. This position is based on the value that God accords to all. The act of creation that goes into creating each and every one of us shows God’s extreme concern and the importance that he gives to every person, whoever they are and wherever they may be.
God does not distinguish the beautiful from the ugly, the handicapped from the strong, or the old from the young. In creating each of those persons, he set a value—an equal value—on each of individually. I would add that in creating people, God exhibits a desire for a relationship with us, again an indication of the value and potential that he sees within us and accords us.
The second basis for Christians to reject the world’s economic and greed-based system is that we believe that Jesus Christ died for us all, not just a select few. For the Christian, in the crucifixion of Christ, the statement is being made that the Son of God himself died an agonizing death not for the people he liked, not for one group over another group, and not for one race or gender or another. He died not just for the beautiful, but also for the not so beautiful, making no distinction between them. For the Christian community, in the act of Jesus Christ’s dying for all who have lived or ever lived, we are told and the message is given to us that God did not stop at death itself to bring people to eternal life with him. One can only imagine the value and importance that God attaches to each of us, to everyone that has ever lived, when we realize that he died for each one of us. We can only ask the question of ourselves for whom we would be willing to die when we realize that God died for people who are indifferent to him, for those that perhaps do not like him at all, as well as for those he likes and who like him.
In the creation of human beings and in their redemption by the cross, God is telling us the extent to which he places a value on the individual person. He is telling us his view of and the extent of his love for us love that did not stop at death. Most important, he is informing us of the potential he sees in us to be something greater and more exalted than we can imagine. He sees something in each of us that we do not quite understand, but he sees what we can be and are capable of being, which is some sort of magnificent being who will be in relationship, in communication with, and in eternal joy with God and in continued growth to a level we cannot quite imagine or fathom. In creating and redeeming us, God is informing us of the value he not only presently sees in us as individuals, but he sees what we can be potentially. Perhaps one can measure the value that God has placed on the individual if in every person we may see and encounter the face of the suffering Christ in the cross.