Friday, July 8, 2011

Imago Dei, It's All About the Body

Flesh matters. We wouldn't be the image of God if we didn't have bodies - the visible part of us that makes us God's image. It's not just the fact that we have souls that makes us human, it's the blood and skin on our bones, and without that, we just wouldn't be the visible image of God that He made us to be. We wouldn't be human. Even in heaven, we will have bodies (1 Corinthians 15.42-43 NLT)! And if flesh matters, then it also matters what we do with our flesh - whether we have sex with lots of people or save it for marriage; whether we drink to excess and get high; whether we date a man or a woman or both; whether we get a tattoo, a piercing, or amputate a leg just for fun. All of that is going to be covered later on in this series. But if being made in God's image is about representing His character (Ephesians 4.24) and if having bodies is a big part of how we do that, then what we do with our bodies is crucial.

The Body, Body Parts, and the Image

When ancient folk tribes used an animal-shaped idol to represent their gods, they were intentional. An ox represented strength, and thus the god of strength; a divine being of wisdom was represented by a cunning snake or watchful owl. Something about the form of the animal represented what a god was like. So, enter humans. We're the living, breathing, man-shaped icons through which the Creator of everything represents Himself. So even the shape of our bodies and our ears and eyes help us understand God: "He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see?" (Psalm 94.9). Human legs help us to understand that God is near to us – that He promises to “walk” among us (Leviticus 26.12); the human ear helps us to get that God “hears” our prayers and cries of distress (Exodus 22.23); the warrior’s arm makes us understand the might and power of God that he uses for our sake, helping us by His “great power and outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 9.29). If the human body did not exist then the Bible would have no way of talking about what He is like. Even things like sex (oneness within the Trinity) and gender (roles within the Trinity) and speech (God’s commands, revelation, and creation of the world) and hands (God’s election and support of believers) help us to understand who God is and what He is like. Our bodies are an important part of being made in the image of God.

Image, Body, and Law: Understanding God's Commands

It's a bit mysterious why a God powerful enough to create the universe with a single thought might care about our sexual preferences. Surely He's above that, isn't He? But in everything from the farming practices of ancient Israelis (Deuteronomy 22.9) to alcohol consumption (Ephesians 5.18) and sexual orientation (Romans 1.27), Yahweh seems to have laid down a rule for that. Not even Hebrew diets are safe (Leviticus 11.12)! The only way to make sense of this has to do with being made in God's image. He's set up everything in such a way that if done right, it's like a window into God's nature. Everything is a sacrament. Everything has a meaning and a purpose. So, if marriage between men and women represents God's nature, and we'll cover that in another post, then sleeping around or having a same-sex relationship violates that. If marriage, done right, tells the truth about God, then any change in marriage twists that meaning and becomes a violation of God's image, and becomes a deformed and mocking image of God. The same thing goes for all the other commandments. Want to lie? Then you'll become a living image of a God who lies, violating the picture of God as truthful. Want to get drunk? You'll become an image of a God who can't control Himself and who acts like a fool and is irresponsible. Also, you'll be disrespecting God's gift of beer by abusing it to excess. This is the logic behind the Bible's commandments - they show us how to live as God's images. We can't break those commandments. We can only break our dignity and status as image-bearers of God against them.

Summary & Further Reading

Read the verses provided in this article’s links, and ask yourself how you could use the parts and functions of the human body to talk about what God is like. These passages help us understand the importance of the body to our humanity and to representing the Lord.

Our bodies, not just our souls,

Are part of being made in God's image


  1. As always, I'd love to hear what you're thinking. Agree? Disagree? Confused?


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