When we read that we were made in God's image, we think, "Well, our spirits must look like his because he can't possibly have a normal old familiar form like ours". But in almost the same breath, we look at ourselves - spirit and all - as so vile and repulsive that there is nothing redeeming about us except that God just randomly decided to make us into something good under the right circumstances...and even then, he doesn't make us Good, exactly, just covers up all the repulsiveness under a nice clean sheet so he can pretend the disgusting thing underneath is just the covering he's looking at.
This is hard to imagine a truthful God doing.
How can God, the originator of Truth, look at something disgusting and say, "No it's not, it's pure! See, all my eyes behold is the purity of my Son. Nothing else to look at here."
Does God create garbage? If he makes someone whole, is that wholeness just a joke, an illusion?
Or does God the Great Creator make and remake us into something beautiful and wonderful?
I believe God when he says he literally washes us clean. Our sins are actually removed. Which reveals God's Creation underneath all the muck and leaves us with a critical decision to make: how should we now live?
What are we supposed to be if we have been returned to the state God meant us to be in?
When God says that the blood of Jesus "washes" us, "cleanses" us and "brings us back" (redeems), brings us back to life ("you were once dead in your sin but now share in the new life..."), he is saying he is taking us back to the beginning, back to what he originally created...and what he created was something very like himself.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." - Genesis 1:26
We were meant to be like God.
But what does that even mean? It's hard to imagine ourselves being anything like God. It's considered semi-blasphemous to even consider. I stammer over even saying it aloud. How are we normal, average, ordinary people supposed to be anything like the totally alien being we imagine God to be?
I mean, think about it. When we think about God, we think about someone so infinitely Different than us we can't possibly know, understand or imitate anything about him so it's useless to even try. We try and fail to imagine what he looks like. Ask a lot of people what this verse means and they will say something like our Spirits are in God's image and so we have impulses or an intelligence like his...but then turn around and say that man is hopelessly wicked and there isn't a truly good impulse in him. Until recently, I didn't realize I looked at things this way too. But when I had to answer Ben WHY, I couldn't. This dichotomy is seriously confusing.
And to a certain extent, how could it possibly be otherwise? When was the last time I created a star or made a dead person come back to life? What kind of arrogance would it take to even dream of being...well, like God? Wasn't Satan thrown out of Heaven for this same kind of thinking - after all, his big rebellious moment was when he said, "I will be like the Most High", right?
And God said, "Let us make a Man in our image and likeness."
The Hebrew word "tselem" that we've usually translated "image" roughly means something like a shadow. The verse is literally saying something along the lines of, "Let's carve ourselves a shadow." The secondary term "likeness" ("demuth") is almost the same as tselem, but means "a comparison" rather than a "shadow".
So God said, "I'm going to make this creature who'll be My shadow and be comparable to Me."
This indicates something truly miraculous and incredible.
God isn't a mysteriously unknowable alien Thing with weird powers and an incomprehensible motivation for his actions.
God is a Person.
He looks a lot like us.
This is a terrifyingly beautiful idea. It lays a huge responsibility on us. It does not let us imagine ourselves to be obscure and unimportant so our actions or mistakes don't matter much.
If God is a Person we look like, then we are bound to uphold his image if we believe him to be good and worth honoring.
God IS a Person.
He is not an idea.
He is not a ghost.
He is not a collective consciousness.
He is a person who could actually walk in a beautiful garden with these two creatures he called Mankind. He is a Person who could speak to Moses like a man with a friend. He is a Person who likes some things and hates others.
He is a Person he intended us to know and deeply recognize, to the point he has held out the gift of his own Spirit so we could think and act as he would. So that if you see a man or woman possessed by that Spirit, it's as if you are seeing God himself.
Jesus was exasperated with his disciples when they kept asking to see the Father because they kept expecting something unimaginable when he himself, the perfect image of his Father, was sitting right with them and eating dinner with them. His disciples couldn't imagine God eating dinner or having a wry sense of humor. God couldn't look like them. So they kept asking to see something different without realizing the extraordinary nature of the man they followed and the nature they themselves had been given.
Mankind is made to be God's shadow, the shadow of the Person of God. And the amazing thing about a shadow is that it is an image cast by shining light past a solid form. It does not have the solidity and power of the image it is cast in, but it does tell you a few things about that image. A shadow tells you something is there in the light. It tells you what the shape of that something is. And it is bound to follow wherever the solid thing goes.
We tend to think of ourselves as the solid shape and God as the shadow. We hear that God is Spirit and think that makes him this weird ghostly unrecognizable Thing we have about as much in common with as a star. Which is why we have so much trouble with the idea that we are meant to think and act and BE as copies of our Creator. We are convinced - strangely enough, especially when we become Believers - that it's impossible to be perfected into a being who looks like God as Jesus did. We aren't worthy of that kind of elevation, we think.
And we are right to think it. We didn't DO anything to make God decide how to make us because we weren't made yet when he decided it! But that's not the point. God decided to create us and he decided how to create us and he decided what we should look like and he decided how to make it happen. It's not humility to reject this. It's humility to accept it.
"He has shown you, oh Man, what is Good and what YHVH desires of you: to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8 (paraphrased)
Isn't that the whole point of everything God has done? He gave his commands so we would know how to walk as his shadows. Then he sent Jesus to literally walk the direction we're supposed to so we would have a complete picture of what walking like God looks like; and then to top it off, our perfect teacher and example even gave up his life to restore to us the actual ability to walk after him.
We are in the image and likeness of God. That is what we were created to be. To have hands like his and a face like his and a heart and will that mimic his.
God is a Person we can know. He has made himself knowable to us.
And that is the great promise, the essence of the Good News Jesus came to tell us.
God is knowable and can be familiar to us.
We have the ability to walk after him, to imitate him, to live forever - not as some strange incorporeal creatures we don't understand, but as living beings in a form we know. God is the end - the shadow-caster - of Man as Jesus is the end - the shadow-caster - of the contract of the Law.
God has hands and he's reached one out to us like a father to a small child. And taking it so we may walk after him like a small child with a father is our great hope for escaping the catastrophe of death. For becoming as we were created to be. Images of God in every way.
And that's why it matters that God has hands.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
Please don't be shy! If you're reading the blog updates, we'd like to hear what you think. Click on the "comments" link to send us a note.