The Image of God
So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female God created them. And God blessed them. Genesis 1.27-28
This is a powerful depiction of the creation of humanity by a God who not only loves us, but imbues us with God’s very being! The picture is pretty clear: we human beings, each of us, carries within us the Imago Dei, the image of God. So, each of us is a kind of sacrament. We are intended to show forth the grace/love of God that is part of our being.
How often might we, upon seeing a stranger across the street, say to ourselves ‘Look, there is the sacramental image of God’?
There is a Jewish traditional teaching that each person has a procession of angels walking ahead of him or her and crying out “Make way for the image of God!” Think about that idea for yourself, and think about it for other persons that you may encounter in the course of a day. nHow different might we then see other people.
There has been so much talk these days about how divided we are as a nation and how so many are unable to see those who disagree with them as other than The Enemy, dismissing them with contempt. Suppose we were to imagine those who are our political enemies with that procession of angels going before them calling out ‘Make way for the image of God,” “Love your enemies” says Jesus (Lk 627). It might take a lot of prayer for many of us to do that in the current toxic culture of U.S. politics.
But if we believe the Scriptures, ALL human beings are created in the image of God. Each person - - liberal, conservative, black, white, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, Australian, Russian, Czech, gun owner, insurrectionist, robber, killer, rapist, fascist……. it gets worse. As we move outside our comfort zone, it gets harder to remember God’s image in the person we see as an enemy.
This past week, the news and social media have been peppered with great quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was a person who practiced deep love and forgiveness for his enemies. One story that struck me so strongly was about an incident that took place in 1966 while he was leading a peaceful march for fair housing in Chicago. The marchers were met with an angry crowd screaming racial slurs at them. The crowd threw rocks and bottles and one hit King in the head knocking him down. He got up and continued to march. At one point he saw a group of teenagers jeering at him and calling him names. King slipped away from the group and spoke to them saying something like “You all are smart and good looking. Why would you stoop so low?”
The article went on to ask ‘Why would King compliment people who hurled racist slurs and rocks at him? Why would he speak of reconciling with people who firebombed his house and endangered his family? Without a doubt the anchor for King’s actions was his Christian faith. King truly believed that all of us are created in the image of God, that love is at the center of the Gospel and that it is ‘the only force capable of changing an enemy into a friend’.” [Chicago Tribune. Jan. 18, 2021 p.14]
A statement from Bishop Desmond Tutu - - another person who was able to forgive and reconcile with enemies who had treated him terribly - - says:
“Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. You are precious, with a preciousness that is totally quite immeasurable. And God wants you to be like God; filled with life and goodness and laughter - - and joy.”
You bear the image of God, so wherever you go today, watch for those angels going before you!!