I find it tempting to feel better about myself at the expense of judging others, especially in the privacy of my own mind.
It is easy to watch the vitriol that happens on the internet and decide they need to do better at seeing the image of Jesus in those they are lambasting.
It is effortless to look at the women gathered in impenetrable circles at church and think that if they saw Jesus in those around them, they would be more inclusive.
It is troublesome to aim the same spotlight at myself.
Yet I must.
If I am to live in Jesus who is the Truth, if I am to allow the Spirit to mold me into someone who looks like Him, I must be honest with myself. I must step into the Light that allows no shadows to remain.
Here is the truth.
When I erupt into hissing rage at my children, it is Jesus’ face that flinches back.
When I spit a sideways look and sigh at my husband, it is Jesus’ eyes that fill with hurt.
When I impatiently wrench my car into the path of the elderly driver beside me, it is Jesus’ mouth that compresses in fear.
How can I do this?
How can I treat the One who made me as though He were dirt under my feet?
How can I regard the One who gave me new life as nothing more than an irritation?
I forget to see those around me as an image of the One to whom I owe everything.
Imago Dei. The doctrine of the image of God.
This is the doctrine that says if every human is created in the image of God, then how we treat others is a reflection of how we truly feel about God.
Jesus, as He did most for most laws, raised this to a higher level. Jesus said that when we do something to another person, we are not just reflecting our view of Him, we are actually doing that action to Him.
Whatever I do to those in my little world I am doing to Jesus.
It is a frightening thought.
Perhaps I need to be frightened. Perhaps it would help me to remember.
To remember that the way I treat the people in my world is the way I treat Christ.
Lord, have mercy. Help me to remember.
Into Thy hands. Only You can help me.
Thee I adore. I trust that You will, indeed, help me to remember.
In the human being, creation finds a conscious answering voice, a mortal from the dust of the earth who can know and respond to God’s love as a creature, love God in return, and as a part of this response, voice creation’s praise.
This is a beautiful picture and a beautiful role.
What grace that God entrusted this to us!
What tragedy that our role as worshiper in creation has twisted into worshiper of creation.
Including worshiper of self.
Just as I have twisted my role as God’s representative, I have twisted my role of offering worship on behalf of all creation.
Jarred against nature’s chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
~ John Milton “At a Solomn Music”
What a beautiful word, “however”.
God gave us grace through Christ.
Jesus. Man. God.
A man who gave complete and un-distracted praise to God.
A man who acted out God’s wise rule in the world.
He is our worship to God ~ perfect praise from us to God, creation’s perfect voice.
He is the image of God to us ~ perfect representation of God, being a wise steward of the earth, He brought healing, restoration, hope and peace from God to earth.
Jesus helped and healed many people, like this. He made blind people see. He made deaf people hear. He made lame people walk. Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God’s broken world. ~ Jesus Storybook Bible
The most exciting part of this gift, this grace? We are invited to join Him!
Our privilege is to find our true place in the world, to be conformed by the Spirit to Christ (II Corinthians 3.18) so we can start to be true image bearers ourselves, reflecting the covenant love of God to the world…In Christ through the Spirit we can recover our calling as God’s image bearers, as the people of God exercising wise stewardship. This is part of authentic “spiritual worship” (Romans 12.1).
What joy! What grace! What gift!
By reflecting God’s image to the world around us, to the tiny piece of creation (human and non-human) in which God has placed us, we are voicing the praise of creation back to God.
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.
This has, unfortunately, been used too often as an excuse to plunder the earth and destroy it.
as God’s image bearers, humans are to exercise God’s wise and loving rule within the world; to use more modern language, we are to be wise stewards of the earth, caring for it and protecting it in a way that reflects and embodies God’s rule over his creation.
We are also to spread God and His love to the rest of the world. We are to work to speed up God’s future goal for creation, to bring healing, restoration, hope and peace.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. ~ II Corinthians 5.18-20
Israel was supposed to be a picture of this. Israel was called to be God’s people, accomplishing God’s purposes for humanity in and for the world. They had experienced God’s rescuing power and love and were to be His way of giving that love to the rest of the world.
I wonder what would have happened if Israel had obeyed. What would our world look like if they had acted as God’s representatives?
This is a painful question.
Israel’s purposes were but a shadow of our own.
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
~ II Corinthians 3.6-9
What would our world look like if I were acting as God’s representative?
What would my neighborhood, my community look like if I were caring for and protecting our world, if I were sharing God’s rescuing love with the people around me?
I will confess. Different.
Things have gone wrong and many live in alienation from one another and in purposeless and destructive living. I want to be different. I want to live in the image of God.
We can only do small things. Being mindful of the way we treat our natural resources, sharing our garden and our baked goods with our neighbors, helping another child get the food, education and spiritual learning she needs…
I will continue to think through this, trying to imagine what it looks like to act in the image of God. Will you help me? What if we all made a small change or two? Perhaps our world would look different.
Come back next week? Bring your coffee and stay awhile. I enjoy talking over hard things with you. Even if we come to no conclusions, I think it is helpful and good. We can continue with the other side of this: being a part of God’s creation.