A constant cry heard around the modern world is for equality. People have a deep seated sense of injustice seeing other people treated differently based on their race, sex, or religion. But where does this pursuit of equality come from?
The Genesis of equality
Today’s opinionated secularist will attribute these inequalities to a backward, religious aftertaste from our ignorant past. However, the source of Western civilisation’s obsession with equality and fairness stems from the world’s most influential religion – Christianity.
Through the teachings of the Bible generally, and Jesus specifically, we discover that we are made in the image of God, placing significant worth and dignity on every human being. In the biblical accounts of creation, human beings are clearly differentiated from every other living thing by this image woven into our being.
As sin came into the world, this imago Dei in man was obscured, becoming unrecognisable. The default condition of the human heart transitioned from love of God and neighbour to idolatry and murder.
The History of equality
Since the days of the New Testament, the apostolic authors demonstrated this countercultural idea by exhorting Christians to treat all men as equal. Slaves, women, children and Gentiles were seen through the Master’s eyes – as lost sheep in need of rescuing.
This ethic developed historically through institutions such as hospitals and orphanages – expressions of the uniquely Christian desire to love the lesser.
One of the most notable historical examples is of William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect. His lifelong quest to abolish slavery from the British Empire was driven not by some vague and groundless humanitarianism but by the imago Dei – the image of God in every human being, making us all equal before our Creator.
The Future of equality
Can other worldviews account for this innate sense of human equality? Short answer – no. No other belief system can come close to offering a robust explanation for human equality. They can definitely treat others with genuine dignity and worth – they just don’t have a legitimate reason to do so.
The teachings of Jesus not only show us how we ought to carry out our horizontal relationships (man and man), but reveal the true state of our vertical relationship (man and God). Jesus, the ultimate leveller, has shown all man that they are indeed equal in the most important way – by coming and revealing the hopelessness of all before a holy and perfect God. He came to live a perfect life and die a perfect death in our place to offer forgiveness and salvation.
All men are created equal and stand in equal need of a Saviour.