Thursday, July 28, 2011

Imago Dei, You've Got Your Father's Image

Good luck trying to live in the image of God if you can't even figure out who He is or what He's like. Take today's topic for example: If God is a Trinity -one being, in three persons- then that means some things for how we live out His image. If there's one God (James 2.19), and the Father and Jesus are both the only God (1 Corinthians 8.6 and 1 John 5.20), and yet they are both different (Matthew 24.36), and on top of that we also have the Holy Spirit thrown in the mix (John 14.16-17 and Acts 5.3-4), then all of that gets played out into what it means to represent God's nature as people who are made in His image. And if Jesus also submits to the Father, even though they're equals, then that really changes some things. What we know about God being three, and at the same time one, gets played out for us in community, in sexuality, and family. God is Yahweh (one) and yet also the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three). If we can see Him clearly, then we'll begin to understand what it looks like to be a human being -or a human community- fashioned after the holy three-and-one Image of God.

The Father In Sex, Community, and Family Roles

Can you live the human life without being around other people? No. God didn't create just one person when He spoke the world into existence and formed Adam from the dust; He said 'It is not good for man to be alone' and made a woman to be with him (Genesis 2.18). This is sexuality and family. And it means something. One of the great things about being married has been where Kendra and I realize that we're representing God in a way that we never could have alone: I lead my home and (with mixed success so far) care for Kendra, and I come up with the basic vision of where our lives are going as husband and wife; Kendra, even though she's my equal, trusts me and supports that vision (with mixed success). We're representing the Trinity as a married couple: even though the Father and Jesus Christ are equally and totally God, the Father alone knows the plan for how history is going to unfold and Jesus follows His lead on that (Matthew 24.36). In our marriage, Kendra follows my lead, like Jesus, and I do planning like the Father. And if Kendra and I weren't married, cultural roles would fill the void: all people are made equal, but some are national leaders (Kings) or spiritual leaders (Priests), and even though we're equals we are still under their authority - we submit to them just like Jesus submits to the Father. Submission isn't like a UFC 'I'm tapping because you've got me in a kimura armbar and I've lost' sort of thing, it's just choosing to say 'Hey, I'll follow your lead.' So God the Father is the leader in the Trinity, and we represent Him by stepping up into leadership roles in our communities and families (or, by being like Jesus and following the lead of someone else).

Papa God Don't Have No Body

The other thing is that we represent the Father by just being visible. He is the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). He does not need eyes to see, or ears to hear, or a mouth to speak, or a stomach for digestion, or anatomical structure for the creation of offspring. He is beyond that. There isn't really one specific shape or a body that we can point to and say 'THAT'S what God looks like!' This is why God appears in all sort of different ways in the Old Testament: As a fire in Exodus 3.1-6; as a whirlwind and a pillar of fire in Exodus 13.21-22; or as a shining cloud in Leviticus 16.2. God does not have a physical form because, as Jesus said, "The Father... is spirit" (John 4.24). So when people say, “I think the Image of God means that we look like Him,” there are a lot of problems that come with that. God is infinite and beyond comprehension – and having a body like ours makes Him little more than some kind of ascended human being (which is what the Mormons believe). It takes away from His omnipresence –the teaching that God is everywhere at once- and ties Him to a specific place wherever His body is. Teaching that God has a physical form lowers our view of who He is. We are God's visible image, not because we're filling some kind of gap that God can't fill on His own, but because God can't be reduced to some bodily, visible form.

What This Means In Everyday Life

Like I have written over the past couple of posts, what we do reflects what kind of God we believe in. If we're visible liars, we show the world that we believe in an invisible God whose character is full of deceit. If we visibly neglect gender roles in our marriages, we show the world that we do not believe the Father leads or cares for the other members of the Trinity. When we go a step beyond that and visibly endorse gay marriages, we show the world that we believe there's no difference between the members of the Trinity at all. But if we accept the roles of parent, husband, king (national leader), and priest (Christian leader), and submit to the people who embody those roles, then we are carrying on in the tradition of God the Father - a tradition that started within the character of Yahweh Himself. If we shirk responsibility and rebel against authority, then we shirk the Image of God and rebel against the Lord who made us. And that's a heavy thing to think about. All this abstract stuff is practical.


Also check out
Imago Dei, the Image of His Nature (we represent God's character)
-Imago Dei, It's All About the Body (our bodies tell us something about God)

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