In the Image of God! Really?
Like perhaps you, I have been so conditioned to think of God in anthropomorphic ways – that is, in ways human – only, of course, God is a super human – I’ve thought of God for so long in this way that it’s hard to think of God in any other way.
It would be the same for many of you, right? See what I mean? You, too, have this kind of image of God that pops into your mind as a benevolent super human, wearing a white robe, bearing a well-manicured beard, a kind face, who is the perfect, celestial granddaddy whom we just just happen to call God.
What’s inadequate about this image of God?
Well, doesn’t it sort of make God into our image, rather than the other way around? The Genesis account puts it this way, “In the image of God made he them” (Gen. 1:27) and yet, the first thing that pops into your mind and mine is a Divine Someone in OUR image.
Pam and I have a newborn grandchild. Charlie is his name, the name given him by his parents, Phillip and Kayla. You’ll have to ask them from where that name came. When I hold this amazing miracle in my arms, however, and look into his bright, curious eyes, he looks like Charlie to me and he bears a striking resemblance to his parents. He is the image of them, that is. It isn’t the other way around.
We’re like God, too, my friends, made in her image. So, have you ever seriously considered what that means what?
What it means is that God is with you.
God is in you.
Dare I say it? God IS you.
I know, it sounds a bit blasphemous, doesn’t it? Admittedly, it feels just as blasphemous to write it. But, when you think about it beyond your conditioned way of thinking – and, by that, I mean, in terms of your separateness from God – what else could it possibly mean to be in the image of God?
Or, for that matter, what less could Jesus have meant when one day he was quizzed by those out to prove he’d gone mad…blasphemously insane even? They got his message all too well. And, they were pissed to high heaven – had they believed in heaven anyway.
Why were they infuriated? Precisely because Jesus equated himself with God. Worse than that, he had the audacity to equate his hearers with God, too. That minor point, however, they seemed to have missed.
They were too busy shouting “Blasphemy!” as his first association.
“How dare you?” they cried out.
I don’t know about you but it sort of bothers me why it’s always the religious establishment that disagreed with Jesus, debated with him, then divided themselves from him, and, ultimately, set out to destroy him.
And, I think what bothers me most is that not much has changed over the centuries, has it? Instead of the community of faith being the first place to question long-held beliefs, it’s too often the last place. The religious establishment today gets its collective mind all tangled up in a straightjacket over its beliefs and its ways of believing…that, before long, those beliefs become so entangled…or, we might more accurately say, so incarcerating that to ever even question them is tantamount to a prisoner trying to escape solitary confinement.
Now, if you’re interested, you should go read John 10. See if you can actually read the passage without your preconditioned, hermeneutics getting in the way. It isn’t so easy for me.
Jesus had been saying things so contrary to their code of beliefs that these poor, threatened souls were plotting to lynch him.
And, what was it that Jesus was saying that deeply offended their close-minded certainties?
He suggested that there was no separation between God and himself. That when they looked at him, it was as if they were looking into the face of God himself.
That offended them. But it does not offend you and me, however. And, why is that? Because you and I have been raised…have been conditioned…to believe that God and Jesus are one and the same. That Jesus IS God.
But, have you ever read the rest of what Jesus said here? He isn’t finished with his bold assertions. In fact, I’m quite certain this next part many of you have never seen…or heard, and did not even know was in the text. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon on this part of the story and, ironically, it IS his main point.
Better get ready. It’s likely to offend some of you.
Jesus not only equated himself with God but, by implication, he even suggested that there is no separation between God and you and between God and me and and between God and us.
“You make of yourself God!” they charged Jesus (John 10:33).
Which of course he did. But, that’s what they said then.
What Jesus ALSO said folks today would find equally objectionable – “You make us God’s too!”
“Blasphemous!” you say?
But, of course! Haven’t you learned? That’s his style, you know. And yet, it IS what Jesus said. Folks back then were already so red hot with anger, they never heard his real heresy – the real point he was making – that they, too, were one-and-the-same with God.
So, why don’t you pick up where their anger left off and vent a little rage of your own?
Vent it toward me, if that helps. Since it is I who reminds you of what Jesus said back then. Who today would have the audacity to suggest that what Jesus was saying – which of course he was – that God is in you and me…that God IS you and me? Well, that’s going too far, isn’t it?
“And yet,” Jesus asked for their reflection, for ours, too, “Is it not written in your own law that YOU ARE GODS?” (John 10:33-35).
If you’re open to what Jesus was saying, and a few of you are, then relax with his suggestion, as well as your first impulse to explain it away, and let it simmer in your soul. I suspect you’ll soon recognize some things start changing in you almost effortlessly.
And, how could they not?
Since we are indeed the image of God…
How could we ever henceforth and forevermore disregard each other? We might debate with each other? Sure. But disregard? Or worse, seek to destroy? If that image is in you…if that image is you…how could I destroy God in you without also destroying God in me?
Or, think about it like this: If Jesus is right and God is in me…if God IS me, why would I ever feel as if I have not enough? Or, that I am not enough? I am one with God – the God who created the universe itself – even the word “universe” is a subtle reminder of my Oneness with God…with all things – “uni” means “one” and “verse” means “song” – there is but one song and we all sing it – in fact, we ARE the song. So, what could I ever face, or what could you ever face, that would be too grand…too great…even too impossible?
My little grandson, Charlie, will grow up as Charlie. It should be so. It will be so. He’ll not grow up as Phillip. Or, as Kayla. Shucks he won’t even grow up as his Papaw, as grand as I think that would be.
But that Charlie belongs to Phillip…that Charlie is in the image of Kayla…well…you cannot look into his infant, but infinitely perfect face and see anyone else.
That Charlie belongs to God…that Charlie is one with God…and,that there is no separation between the God in whose image Charlie is and Charlie himself is the point Jesus was making.
I know how mysterious this all is…even unfathomable. I know the impulse in you to disagree with me or to immediately seek some other explanation for Jesus’ heresy.
But, my friend, today, I cannot help but wonder if THIS vision of his oneness with God might not serve Charlie better throughout his brief life on earth than the vision of God I’ve lived with throughout the bulk of my own?
You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. After all, you’re in this image, too.
So, which image of God for you? The grandaddy in a white robe sitting in an oversized chair and floating around on some white cloud in the heavens above? That image never did much for me. Except of course strike fear, the feeling separateness and distance and, not too far from these thoughts, the feeling of judgment, isolation, loneliness, and…well…maybe you can understand.
So, today, I’m wondering what it might do to his vision of himself, or this world, were Charlie to grow up with the vision of a God who is within him…who IS him?
Makes me also wonder how he’d grow up to look at you, to treat you, too? The world and everyone in it? Um! It’s a nice thought, don’t you think?