Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thanks For That Image

An image is supposed to give you a better picture of something.

Is that statue in the park covered with random bird droppings really the town founder? No, but because it’s there, you have a face to the name. You can relate to him and understand him a little more.

Humans are made in the image of God. Yes, that means that we are supposed to reflect God to those around us. I’ve always known that.

But we can also learn about God by watching other people.

That one I missed.

Think about all the people you admire or love being around. Name the qualities they have that make them that kind of person. Then think about this—everything good in us comes from being made in God’s image, right? So everything you love about other people is fully present in Jesus.

Every random act of kindness by a stranger that you’ve furiously written down for a Facebook post because you want everyone to know that it’s okay to have hope in humanity again—that was something that Jesus would do.

Every list of qualities that you want (or wanted, if you’re already married) your future husband or wife to have, Jesus fits. (Well, maybe not the “blonde hair” or “ability to play the banjo and speak five languages.” I was thinking more of the non-shallow half of the list, the ones dealing with character.)

Every time you’ve looked up to someone because of their integrity and said, “I don’t care what it takes, but I want that to be me when I’m that age or in that situation”—that’s the same kind of admiration we should have as we try to imitate Christ.

I don’t mean this in a super abstract God-is-in-everything kind of way. Let me explain where I’m coming from.

It’s easy for me to love people. But I forget why I love people. It’s because of the Image. The proudest moments of humanity are when we fight back against the pull of our own nature and, by the grace of God, say, “Not this time.”

No, we are not basically good. But we have claim to a heritage that goes back before the Fall. Because Jesus conquered sin, Christians can choose to consistently live out the image of God.

Everything I love about people comes from God, but it’s hard for me to love God Himself, because He’s so . . . other. All of the omnis combined with eternality makes it hard for God to seem like us in any way.

In a way, that’s good. I believe that to make Jesus into a buddy would be to shrink him down. We need to leave room for holiness. There has to be an attitude of respect, something that we’ve forgotten as a culture.

But if most Christians have a problem respecting a holy God, I have a hard time loving a gracious Father because I forget to see Him as a person. Not a person in the same sense as we are, of course. But one with character, attributes, a mind, a will.

Not a character in a book who I can analyze. Not a distant celebrity. Not an essence or a force. A person.

That’s why it helps me to remember God’s image in us. When I take what I can see and experience and say what that means about God, I can love Him better.

So, to the people in my life who have stayed up late arguing about theology and ethics with me, thank you. You have shown me that God cares about what is right and true.

Thank you to those who are so passionate about loving others and using your gifts and living your faith that you might possibly explode. Because of you, I’ve seen a glimpse of what God’s heart looks like.

If you have ever done something small that you thought no one noticed—sitting with the guy who no one likes, laughing off an insult instead of retaliating, setting up chairs, giving a word of encouragement that didn’t seem to be received, being the peacemaker—thank you. Because I noticed. From you and your actions, I’ve learned that God is loving, humble, gracious, and wise.

And I’ve started to believe it in a way that goes past my head and into my heart.

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