I have a number of things to do in my job at Tearfund, but one activity that I particularly enjoy is spending time with my colleagues and our partners thinking about what the Bible has to say about aspects of our work. We call this ‘Thinking Theology’ or theological reflection, and it’s a really important part of making sure that our aid and development work is Christ-centred and bears witness to the kingdom of God.
Fortunately, I’m not responsible for this work on my own! I have a great team who also takes part, and Tearfund has a small panel of theologians to call on regularly for advice and ideas. A few years ago we decided it would be helpful for us to look at the biblical idea of the image of God and to ask ourselves what this concept has to say about the way Christians take part in development work. We chose a few topics and invited theologians to write short papers for us on them, which we could read and discuss — with the intention of allowing them to shape our practical work.
This short collection has essays on creation, mission, injustice, human rights, economics, and our future, in the context of the coming of the kingdom of God. Each one argues that the image of God in humanity should affect the way we think about these topics and the way we engage with them to reveal God’s kingdom in the world.
I’ve found the essays to be really thought-provoking and inspiring as I’ve read them. In particular, I’ve found Andy Crouch’s argument challenging that idolatry - placing something between ourselves and the God whose image we bear — is a key cause of injustice. It makes me think about what I make into an idol, how it prevents me from bearing God’s image fully, and how this helps make me a part the injustice I see in the world. I also love Vinoth Ramachandra’s reminder that, since we all bear God’s image and share an innate worth, individual rights must come with responsibilities to others. Doing one without the other won’t bring justice, show God’s love, or contribute to the kingdom.
Each essay comes with discussion questions to think about, which I am looking forward to reading with my team in Tearfund — and I hope that we’ll be able to share some of our reflections and ideas here in the next few weeks and months.
Made in the Image of God, the importance of the imago dei for issues in international development edited by Krish Kandiah, Hannah J. Swithinbank and David Westlake.
You can read the essays on the TILZ website.