"You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and our measure as a society, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized, to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity—because we are all made in the image of God."
Obama got it almost right. If he had left out the phrase "our measure as individuals," it would have been a beautiful, biblical challenge to us all. What do I mean?
"Our measure as a society is [determined] by how well we hew to Scripture's call..." Yes, the people of God are called to serve the poor, right injustice, and promote the dignity of all. The prophets rail against Israel when they neglected this basic law of God. Indeed that nation's judgment came in part because of their refusal to obey God in the way they treated the marginalized (Isaiah 58:6-8; Micah 6:8; Matthew 25:40). This is most definitely a behavior by which a people are measured. As a group, all Christians are called to this primary mission. We must continue to work at embodying the kingdom of God right here, right now.
BUT ... mission is different from "our measure as individuals." Far too often, we lose the distinction between the two. What we believe about this concept affects our perspective on the dignity of life, at both the beginning and the end. If life does not have inherent value, but only such value as that person's ability to work or do or add to another's betterment, then the unborn, infirm, elderly, mentally ill, and disabled all lose their value as citizens of earth. It comes down to DO=BE. What I do determines my measure as a person.
But Jesus and the cross say differently. He sacrificed his life on behalf of each human, offering forgiveness, salvation, restoration, and relationship to all who would accept his free gift. Ephesians 1:4-5: "
Notice the timing: "before the creation of the world." No way for us to do anything, to earn his favor, to deserve his love. As if love can truly be earned... "
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."