“And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man,” reads Genesis 9:5b.
How responsible are we? How seriously do we need to take this? Pretty much so, I’d imagine.
I heard a quote recently and like many good things I read and hear, I am not able to attribute it accurately. If you know the source, please tell me, and I’ll update. I think it could have been Rob Bell or Francis Chan. I listened to books of each of theirs on the same day on a LONG road trip (my favorite kind). Anyway, the quote was something to the effect that “When we feed someone, it means that we want him to go on living another day.” It’s an investment in them, a statement of the value of their life.
Here in Big Mac Land, we aren’t talking about sustenance for living or life-and-death calorie counts. But it still applies in the sense of desiring to nourish someone, provide something “life-giving.”
So when Genesis admonishes that we are going to be held accountable for the “life” of fellow man, certainly it includes actual life. So why, when I see someone sprawled out on the sidewalk or on a staircase in the more visibly hurting parts of my city (there is as much pain of a different sort in homes with manicured lawns), looking as if they are dead, do I not go see if they are in fact dead — or living but desperate? I shudder to think why I don’t.
And C.S. Lewis famously talks about our encounters with each glorious person (full of the glory of being God’s image-bearers) that we meet, and how it is incumbent on each of us to treat the other that way.
Here is an excerpt from Lewis’ Weight of Glory:
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people.
So when we read in Genesis, “And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man,” we know that beyond doing anything we can to insure that our fellow man lives bodily, we are also charged with the privilege of taking their dignity and spiritual destiny seriously. And held accountable for such.