“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”
I was reading an article on Wikipedia a little while back, inspired by an acquaintance’s post about a WW II hero, Irena Sendler, and I ran across another hero I’d never heard of. His name is Chiune Sugihara, and he helped save 6,000 Jews during the war.
Maybe you could call it a kick I’ve been on lately, but I like to think it was something I learned from a book about godly affirmation. The basic idea is this: we catch glimpses of the glory of God, of his character, when we see manifestations of his character in people, whether they are believers or not. God created man in his own image and I think this means we reflect his character, we reflect him when we manifest those qualities of his that he gave us.
So when I read Mr. Sugihara’s story, and read his own words explaining why he did what he did, I saw a man who valued people regardless of what ‘kind’ they were, who had compassion on them, and acted to spare their lives. Here’s what Hillel Levine records about Sugihara’s reasons for doing what he did:
“You want to know about my motivation, don’t you? Well. It is the kind of sentiments anyone would have when he actually sees refugees face to face, begging with tears in their eyes. He just cannot help but sympathize with them. Among the refugees were the elderly and women. They were so desperate that they went so far as to kiss my shoes, Yes, I actually witnessed such scenes with my own eyes. Also, I felt at that time, that the Japanese government did not have any uniform opinion in Tokyo. Some Japanese military leaders were just scared because of the pressure from the Nazis; while other officials in the Home Ministry were simply ambivalent.
“People in Tokyo were not united. I felt it silly to deal with them. So, I made up my mind not to wait for their reply. I knew that somebody would surely complain about me in the future. But, I myself thought this would be the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong in saving many people’s lives…. The spirit of humanity, philanthropy… neighborly friendship… with this spirit, I ventured to do what I did, confronting this most difficult situation—and because of this reason, I went ahead with redoubled courage.”
He died in 1986, unknown in his own country for his heroism, and he did suffer consequences for his actions. And amazingly enough, one author records, ‘”Only when a large Jewish delegation from around the world, including the Israeli ambassador to Japan, showed up at his funeral, did his neighbors find out what he had done.”*
I was overwhelmed by this man’s story. You can access the story I read on Wikipedia via this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiune_Sugihara – I highly recommend it.
I started off with the reference to being created in God’s image, because I think I forget about that when I think of people in terms of whether or not they are believers. But the thing is, everyone is created in God’s image. Those pesky folks we don’t like, ones who commit horrible atrocities, and even just the ones in our everyday lives who are outside our own personal boxes. And I get to see God in them because he created them that way.
I would sure love it if people could see his glory in me, but I want to acknowledge that he made it so that I can see his glory everywhere, and not just where I say it is. As a believer, I think I’ve been saying, inadvertently, that it’s only believers who reflect his glory and character – which I’m certain we can and do. But if everyone is created in his image, then I shouldn’t be surprised when I see it in places that are outside my boxes. Lot of food for thought there…
* Lee, Dom; Mochizuki, Ken (2003). Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story. New York: Lee & Low Books.