Created in the Image of God? What are you going to do about it?
February 12, 2017
One of the lessons of the Civil Rights movement that we need to keep learning over and over again is that everyone is created in the image of God. Or another way of saying it is that everybody has something of God in them. I am sure that you have read or heard plenty of times something like this that I read on sojo.net earlier this week. God wants us to view everyone — regardless of their ethnicity, culture, nationality, politics, worldview, or socio-economic background — as people divinely loved by God and created in God’s image.
So instead of classifying people as refugees, immigrants, “illegal” immigrants, Muslims, Iranians, or whatever other association we use to judge people, God wants us to see humanity as fellow loved ones, children of God. https://sojo.net/articles/christ-not-america-first
I like that. Anybody not like that. There is something, though, that I think we too often forget. If all people are created in God’s image, if there is something of God in all of us, that means it’s not just in everybody else but in each us, too. As much of God is in me or you as in anybody else in this room or this world. We need to remember that for, at least, a couple of reasons.
The first is that it keeps us from selling ourselves short. Each day we wake up is another day of being a person who has been created in God’s image. There is value to us, something automatically worthy about us. Now some of us do a better job of recognizing that than others. Perhaps a much too better job. And others of us have a hard time grabbing hold of that.
Jesus, though, kept helping us try to discover something about how that image of God rests in us by constantly showing us how much we all are loved by God. Not everyone else. Us, too. What Jesus seemed intent on doing was helping us recover that idea, to live into it. He called the image of God out of us. That’s why he told his followers they were the light of the world, because the light of God is in us. We don’t have to light it. We don’t have to plead with God to light us up. Jesus simply said, let it shine.
Here’s the second thing. And maybe a bit of an ulterior motive. Jesus didn’t simply want us to remember that we are created in the image of God, as if it were something we get to possess and then live happily forever after. He wants us to live up to that. He wants us to live like the image of God is really in us. And he wants us to call that image of God out of each other.
There are so many ways to talk about this thing we call the Realm of God, but one of them is just finding the God who is in us and everyone else, regardless of their race, sex or sexuality, income, place of birth, religion, education, or social status.
We talk about the need to build bridges instead of walls. But there is a reason to build those bridges and it’s not only to get to each other. It’s to get us to where we all need to go. We journey across those bridges to the new worlds and new places that the walls try to keep us from discovering with each other.
Last week we looked at Luke 7 in our ECO bible study, which contains one of the stories of the women who anointed Jesus feet during dinner. The woman had heard what Jesus was saying about the image of God being in her. She ran with it and saw herself in a new way. She didn’t care how many societal norms she was breaking, and went into that room. She didn’t care what anybody thought because Jesus had shown her the alternative society he called the Realm of God. She was not going to continue to live by the old rules that ignored the image of God that was in her.
And what she did by showing that extravagant response to Jesus for this new world he was talking about was not just for her and other women, but for every man in that room. It’s like what MLK, Jr. said about the civil rights gains being for white folk as much as black folk. He knew the only was the white folk were going to rediscover the image of God in themselves was by seeing it in the black folk.
When Jesus looked at those men in the room you see his frustration. “Don’t you get it,” he said. “This woman is showing you that you can live up to the image of God that is in you. You can call it out of each other. She’s showing you the way. What she has done is a game changer.”
To honor the image of God in others and is, at its core, a political act. Don’t ever try to tell me that Jesus wasn’t political. Because the image of God is about as political as it gets. But it is so much more than politics as we know it.
Again, let’s think about the civil rights movement whose political action was meant to save this nation’s soul. It was a spiritual battle fought on the field of politics. And we are there again. We don’t have to let our leaders divide us. We don’t have to be seduced by their siren songs of nationalism. We don’t have to succumb to the rage and outrage they foster to get elected. We don’t have to let them exchange truth for a lie because the image of God is in us! Here’s another sentence from the Sojourner’s article on sojo.net which is called Christ, Not America First. This is what governments and societies try to do: enforce control through division, anger, hate, anxiety, and power. [above]
This to me is at the heart of what the Book of Revelations is about. How do we live as the children of God in the empire that thinks we are created in its image, not God’s? All that those kings and generals we read about in The Revelation want from us is to declare our allegiance to Caesar, the empire, the nation. But for us, our allegiance is to Jesus and the Realm of God. The whole notion of a father land or mother land withers in the light of the Realm of God. When we say things like America first, or white people first, or men first, or Christians first, or straight people first, or able people first, or rich people first, or rural people first, or city people first, we are forgetting what Jesus said about the first being last and the last being first. When the first are last and the last are first there is a leveling that takes place, every valley is exalted and every mountain made low so we can find our way to each other and discover the image of God in each other.
We deserve to live as God’s children, as image bearers, and so does everyone else. There is a challenge, though. This thing called sin that can get in the way. And because of the sin that so easily besets us, Jesus told us we have to commit ourselves to live toward that image of God to shine that light. We will do that in our prayer closets, in our church sanctuaries and church basement, at our dinner tables, in our streets.
That image of God shines brighter when it’s more than one little light. We bring the light of God that is in us with each other. That’s when things really get bright. It would never have occurred to Jesus that we were supposed to be out there shining all alone. How about rethinking that song this little light or mine I’m going to let it shine into something like this big light of ours, we’re going to let it shine?
Nor would it have ever occurred to Jesus that we would stand off in our corners and just shine it with our own little groups of people, and maybe even put up some walls so we won’t see the other lights that are out there?
That story that Edyie, Peggy, and Sarah shared this morning wasn’t about finding the image of God in each other. It was also about them finding it in themselves. But stories like that are about all of us, as well. They call out that thing of God that is in us.
It’s not enough to recognize the image of God in each other or in ourselves. We have to do something about it. And the craziness going on these days gives us our chance. Living like the image of God is really in all of us is resistance at its core.