Marshal Keeble, a much beloved preacher of an earlier generation, was asked why he called all men “Brother”. Keeble’s replied that all men are his brothers, “If I miss ‘em in Christ, I’ll hit ‘em in Adam.”
In Genesis 1:27 we learn that mankind is created in God’s image:
“And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (ASV)
As God-imagers, everyone has an inherent right to be treated with justice, respect and dignity. Descended from the first Father and Mother, all mankind are brothers and sisters. Both the Creation and Family aspects call for the proper and ethical treatment of people.
In the Covenant renewal of Deuteronomy 30:15-20, God says, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love Jehovah thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that thou mayest live and multiply, … therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love Jehovah thy God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him; for he is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which Jehovah sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, ASV).
God intends for man to have life, and according to Jesus, he “came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Both God the Father, and God the Son promote life. Not mere existence, but full and fulfilling life.
Covenant living before God shapes the nature and quality of that life. It’s not just salvation and heaven after death that is offered. God offers a life with both himself and one another – life lived in the image of God.
Notice in the Covenant renewal above, that life was shaped by love of God, walking in his ways, keeping his commandments, statutes and ordinances, obeying his voice, and cleaving unto him; “for he is thy life”.
Looking at the commandments and ordinances of the Old Covenant, we see love, joy, kindness, justice, holiness, and mercy being promoted. We see that God promoted the ethical treatment of people. Those commands and ordinances were not God being bossy and arbitrary; it was God’s shaping of the character of both the nation and the individuals into a moral and ethical example for good.
Israel was to stand out among the nations as a “Holy Nation” and a “Priestly Nation.” “You will be for me a Kingdom of Priests” (Exodus 19:6 ). Their national role as a priest was mediatorial, to draw the surrounding nations’ attention to God. To be a nation who pointed to a just God by practicing justice and mercy in his name. [For Israel’s mission to the Gentiles, meditate on Isaiah 42:5-7; 49:6.] While the covenant was made with Israel particularly, it was to be a blessing to the nations as well.
What about covenant living under the New Covenant of Christ? Neither Jesus nor his Bible writers anywhere in Scripture give grounds for thinking life with God has no ethical or moral substance.
When I look upon that person who has done me wrong, I see one made in the image of God and still worthy of ethical treatment. I see one who, as Keeble has said, is my brother, if not in Christ, then in Adam. And I see one to whom I am to demonstrate what Covenant living before God is all about.