Mentoring and Human Value

This post attempts to investigate the Biblical support for mentoring as it pertains to human value. The Bible teaches in the creation story that all humans are created by God both with intrinsic value as well as positional value. Genesis 1:26 teaches:

 “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” (NLT)

In Our Image (Intrinsic Value)

This passage reminds us that all humans have intrinsic value as “Image Bearers” of God. While the Fall certainly has marred this reflection in the human race, the intrinsic value of every human being remains. Because all humans have intrinsic value, all humans have worth and all merit the time and effort of others in their betterment. This remains true regardless of race, disposition, or spiritual belief. The Bible supports this in John 3:16 which states that “God so loved the world” – the cosmos which includes all human beings. Value is the starting point for respect and love in the heart of the believer. All people are deemed loveable, because all people are valued in the heart of God. All people are worthy of sacrifice, because all people are loved by God first and foremost. This is the starting point for ministry.

Mentoring is hard work and can be discouraging at times when mentees are slow to respond or seem to resist authentic, trusting relationship. When this happens, many are tempted to pull away from the relationship. Genesis reminds us that the mentor’s commitment resides not in the mentee’s response. The mentor’s commitment, biblically speaking, resides in God’s response and in God’s heart. Because God finds this young person to be valuable and sees Himself within them as “Image Bearers,” the believing mentor also finds value in this person and remains faithful to the mentee. In those gut-wrenching, hurtful, moments where the relationship seems stagnate and distant, it does the Christian mentor well to remember that God loved us while we were still his enemy (Romans 5:8). In other words, God loves humans regardless of human response. Love is who He is. Love is His choice and love compels us to be as He is. The Apostle John records this truth in 1 John 4:8, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

They will Reign Over (Positional Value)

The creation account in Genesis 1:26 not only describes the intrinsic value of all human beings, it also depicts the positional value that all humans have as stewards of God’s creation. All human beings have value because they all have a role to play in the well-being of creation as a whole. The mentor finds great encouragement in knowing that his/her mentee is ordained by God for an important work in this world. God entrusts this young person with stewardship over all of his creation. God has a plan for this young person and a calling on this mentee’s life. Because we live in a fallen world, this calling may seem distant – or nonexistent – at times. Nevertheless, God’s word remains true and God’s plan remains steadfast. The mentor is God’s workman to call forth God’s creative purpose within that young person through steadfast love, extended social networks, and genuine friendship during difficult seasons.

Because the Genesis account pertains to the mentor as much as to the mentee, it provides the marching orders for each one of us. Genesis 1:30 teaches, “And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life” (NLT). This verse calls the mentor to pursue stewardship over “everything that has life.” Charles Cooley, a sociologist from the late 19 century, believes that every criminal indicates a failure on the part of the society to nurture a young person (cf. Social Organization). While Cooley was not a Christian and did not take into account any of the spiritual elements affecting humans and their ability to make good choices, his conclusion does echo the Genesis mandate to steward all living beings well. The heartbeat of the Christian mentor reflects this desire to nurture well all who find themselves within his or her relational circle.

-Ken Merrifield

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