Image Is Everything

A man and his dog

Photo by Monica Beck

A number of years ago, now, Canon put out a commercial with the catch line, “Image is everything”. I remember thinking back then how that line captured the prevailing value of our culture. A few blogs back I wrote on how our American culture seems to be fixated on image – that outward or public view others have of us governed by the values of good looks, outstanding talent, noticeable accomplishments, wealth, etc., etc., often overlooking, or minimizing the issue of character. But there is another, far more positive, side to “image” I want to address.

In the book of Genesis, it is recorded that God made man and woman “in his own image”. No other part of creation is mentioned as having this unique stamp. But what exactly is God’s image? And, based on what we can know about God, in what ways were we created to be like him? Theologians have spilled a lot of ink attempting to answer those questions.

Now, before we become too pompous, on the one hand, or disillusioned on the other, one thing we can immediately put to rest is the idea that this image has anything to do with a physical resemblance. God is Spirit and does not possess the corporal or physical qualities of man.

In attempting to understand the image of the Divine we need look no further than the person of Jesus. Want a perfect picture of what God is like? Take a good long look at his Son. Jesus put it this way, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”. And as followers or apprentices of Jesus it is clear from scripture that we are in a process of being transformed into his likeness.

If Jesus is “the exact representation of his (God’s) being”, and, as his follower, I am being transformed into his likeness, it stands to reason, then, that the more I reflect Christ the more I am fulfilling God’s original intention and purpose for my life.

But, again, what did that original “likeness” entail, and in what ways or capacities is that image being restored in Christ? Most theologians agree that one of the most significant aspects of God’s image of which we were created has to do with a moral likeness.

Unfortunately, holiness and righteousness have, more often than not, received a bad rap due to misrepresentation. However, God’s holiness is described as a form of beauty in scripture. God is actually adorned in holiness and righteousness. These attributes make him beautiful, attractive beyond words. When they are manifested in you and me, his, and thus our own beauty, is revealed.

Another way to understand God’s holiness and righteousness is to see it as that which is completely and utterly separate from and opposite to all that brings trouble, heartache, violence, misery, division, strife, and death to people and this planet. In other words, God’s holiness stands in direct contrast to all that makes life on this planet ugly.

But let’s break this down a little further. What actually goes into this moral likeness to God? When I think about this question my thoughts go back to Jesus. Descriptions come to mind like strong in character, capable of standing for what is right under opposition, courageous in speaking the truth, kind, compassionate, forgiving, powerful in doing good (that which truly benefits), clear sighted in terms of what’s really important, a man of his word (integrity), merciful, gracious, generous, powerful in word (speaks with the authority of first hand knowledge and experience), and loyal, just to mention a few.

Here’s the deal. The world is in desperate need of this kind of beauty. We were all created with the capacity for it. We’ve blown it, but Christ came to restore it. Now, in Christ that original beauty is being renewed. For those of us who have chosen to follow Christ, one primary purpose remains, to reflect his beauty in the world around us.

When we stop to think about it in these terms, image really is everything!