Imago Dei… the image of god. Even in English, the phrase feels very liturgical… very “high church”. It’s the kind of phrase that should be uttered in hushed tones – with one eybrow raised slightly…
the IMAGE OF GOD
We see it all around us… in nature… in a starry night or a fierce storm. We see it in the ocean or in a mountain stream. We see it in a painting by Rembrandt or in Mozart’s Requiem. We see his image in beauty. But what if these things are a prism – what if his image passes through these things creating awe and wonder and beauty? Where them does his image, once the light passes through and is separated by creation’s prism… where does the image rest?
the answer is simple and yet unbelievably profound… it rests in YOU
Genesis 1:26-27 (The Message) 26-28 God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth." God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."
God created the heavens and the earth. He created a prism. Then he released his own nature – his own self - through the prism of creation and reflected his nature into the one he created to bear it. Into humanity.
The narrative of the Genisis story is the narrative of the history oh Israel and ultimately, of humanity.
Creation – Blessing – Failure – Restoration
Throughout the old testament we see this story repeated – this cycle repeated again and again. We see his image and we see humanity struggle against it – even cover it up. We see his face and then we see the glory fade. We see nations born and nations in captivity. We see fire in the sky and manna on the desert floor – we see rebellion and hatred. The image grows more dim but is never fully extinguished. And we see the image not only ion prophets and kings… we see his image in prostitutes and harem girls – in shepherds and slaves. The image of god reflected in his most beautiful creation.
But the cycle continues – the prism is ill-used. It becomes dirty and distorted. The light still gets through but the image is harder to see. It is time to begin again… By going back…
John 1 (The Message)
1-2 The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.
3-5Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out.
9-13The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn't even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn't want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
Over the generations, as the darkness fell and the image grew dim – humanity forgot the beauty of the image. In fact the beauty was so forgotten – such a distant memory – that when Christ came as the fully perfect image of god… most of humanity missed it. but not all…
the passage tells us that some did see it – some did recognize the image that lived in their own core.
Have you ever dressed your self based on your eye color or your hair color. Have you ever noticed that someone with blue eyes… when the wear a blue shirt… the color in their eyes sorta “POP”?
When Christ came – when the incarnation was perfectly displayed – the image of god that still flickered in mankind was awakened. The closer we came to his flame – the brighter our flame began to burn. The image awakened and the world began to change. But not in the way we might have thought.
What if we are changing – not into someone else – but into who we truly are. What if our redemption is not about making us less human – but about making us MORE human?
Follow me here… The cycle of creation – blessing – and failure is not a process of rejecting our divine spark in favor of our humanity. Our fall came as we rejected our TRUE humanity which IS our divine spark.
The incarnation – the coming of this “2nd Adam” was the beginning of the establishment of god’s kingdom, his perfect rule on earth. As heaven and earth kiss – as his kingdom comes – we who are being changed take off those things that make us less human and as we become MORE human – his image becomes more visible. THIS is the image that will draw all men to the feet of Christ. We communicate the gospel not with our “otherworldly obsessions” but by our true humanity.
To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is
the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true
identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true
character. Love is my name… To find love I must enter
into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God.
The mystery of God…
So much of my Calvanist training has taught me again and again of my depravity and utter unworthiness before God. I still believe that this is our trouble but I no longer believe that this is our true nature. We are… not who we may have become… we are what HE made… Image bearers of the living God. It is his image in us that frees us to be fully human…. Just as HE became fully human – and – this is huge… HE IS STILL FULLY HUMAN.
To be made in his image is to love – as he loved
To be made in his image is to give mercy – as he gave mercy
To be made in his image is to look like him. To care about what he cares about. To BE like him.
Isn’t this what humanity – at it’s best – looks like? Isn’t this the kind of humanity that inspires us and sometimes humbles us?
Where is his image? Where is the IMAGO DEI? Look around you. It’s in your kids, your spouse, your friends. It’s in your overbearing boss or the coworker you try to avoid at lunch. It is in the beauty we can see, if we look hard enough, in even the most damaged examples of humanity. It is in YOU
One day we will see him – see his image face to face – but for now we only see that image in a mirror. A dim reflection… maybe. But we do see it. It is visible.
And it IS beautiful.