Just what is an image?
According to Webster, one of the definitions is “an exact likeness: semblance.” The dictionary even uses Genesis 1:27 RSV as the example.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Now, I have followed God virtually my entire life and it’s interesting to note that in my unfiltered mind, the image of God looks very much like me. I would imagine that different ethnicities, ages, etc. would find this same phenomenon to be true. I wonder though if this idea of the image of God has anything to do with our outward appearance. I mean, Jesus was a desert-wandering, Middle Eastern man, yet so many photos have him with pale white skin and blue eyes...are we missing something here?
According to Pastor David Guzik, there are several defining characteristics that provide us a better perspective of what it means to be created in the image of God.
- Man alone possesses personality: knowledge, feelings, and a will
- Man alone possesses morality: we are able to make moral judgments and have a conscience
- Man alone possesses spirituality: we are made for communion with God and communicate with him on the level of spirit
What does all of this mean?
I’m sure you didn’t read this blog hoping for a word origin or theological treatise. For myself, disability ministry has challenged my ideas regarding the image of God and in a very positive and beneficial way. Have you ever met a person without a personality? Do you know anybody without a basic sense of conscience? Are there people in your life who, in the midst of tragedy, don’t acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being, even if they don’t have a relationship with him? Unless you can answer yes to all three of these questions, everybody in your life is created in the image of God.
What does this mean? It means that people affected by disabilities are created in the image of God. They are not a mistake. They are not an afterthought. They are not an inconvenience. They are human beings, filled with personality and morality and spirituality, who are looking for their purpose in life. We all know from Scripture that our ultimate purpose is to glorify God in all that we do. The purpose of the young man born blind in the Gospel of John was to allow the works of God to be seen in him.
Who do we really see?
Do we see a person or a disability? Do we see the image of God or an inconvenience? Do we see hopes and dreams or brokenness? Years ago, I was profoundly touched when my new friend, Alex, he asked if he could pray for me. Typically, this would not have influenced me quite so much, but Alex has cerebral palsy and, at times, he must labor to communicate. As Alex prayed, I leaned in to catch every syllable and meaning of his words. His prayer stopped me in my tracks, focused me on Christ and left me in tears. Alex reminded me that the image of God is not about physical ability or fluency of speech. It is about personality, morality, and spirituality. It is about caring for others and desiring that they know God as much as we do.
Be challenged as I have been to potentially redefine the image of God in your mind. Pray for one person affected by disability that you know. Pray that God helps you to see His image in their life. Pray that you can see His miraculous works revealed through their life. Pray that you experience His glory in every interaction with your friend.