The Image of God
“You have to wait. In just one minute I’ll show you the picture.”
My dad had brought home his new purchase, a Polaroid camera, his latest quest for the best in photo technology. He had cameras for taking slides, prints, and stereo 3D images. He even had a special close-up camera for unusual dental images… you know, those less-than-delightful pictures of crooked or decayed smiles.
But this was a whole new game! No need to wait for the photo lab to develop the images. We just had to be patient for a short time, peel back the covering, and exclaim with delight to see our actual likeness that appeared like magic. There was no doubt who was in the picture. The proof was right there! A perfect image of the real thing.
When babies are born, we are quick to pull out old pictures of relatives to compare their likeness. Whose nose, ears, or smile does the child have? As he or she continues to grow and develop, different physical characteristics appear that are obvious copies of a near or distant relation. I love family reunions where I see “photocopies” of my cousins in their grandchildren, and my memories of childhood play out once again before my eyes.
I take it as a compliment when someone says I’m the “spitting image” of my mother when she was my age. There are less flattering remarks when someone comments on a bad habit or tendency by saying, “Oh, you’re just like your sister (or some other close relative).” I like to jokingly comment to my husband when I ask him why our children seem to have acquired all my good traits and only his bad ones.
I know that I’ve been created in the image of God. Oh, that doesn’t mean I am a god. It just means I have His likeness. I’m not a tree or a rock. I’m not one of His other creatures either. I’m different from all the rest of creation. He told me so right from the beginning.
There is something about me that God wanted to be sure was there. Maybe it’s that part of me that responds when He speaks to me, when He touched my heart with faith. I like to think so.
I was entrusted for many years with the task of explaining the Trinity to fourth graders. How can God be three and still be one? There were several suggested analogies I could draw on, but my own imperfect explanation seemed to click with their young minds.
I explained by using science, the science that God gave to us as a gift. I told them that just as there is the same DNA found in an apple, the bark, the seed, the leaves, so there is God DNA that is found in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That made sense to them. It makes sense to me too.
No one and nothing else contains this God DNA. Isaiah asks, “With whom, then will you compare God? To what image will you liken Him?“(40:18 NIV) All of the images created in the world as “gods” never will measure up.
It’s also important for me to remember that Jesus isn’t just a likeness of God. He doesn’t just have a few of God’s characteristics. He really is God. He has God DNA. After all, He’s God’s very Son.
For emphasis, just so there is no question about who Jesus is, the writer of Hebrews (1:3) clearly states the facts. There are various readings of this truth of being God’s Son: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (ESV); “the express (precise, exact) image” (KJV); “the very image of His substance” (ASV); “the exact representation of His being” (NIV); and my favorite, “the very stamp of His nature” (RSV).
I know I will never be the “very stamp” of who God is. But I know He wants me to conform more and more to the image He created me in. By my own strength, by my own reason, by my own efforts, this perfected image will never happen. That won’t keep me from trying, though. After all, how else could I better say thank you for all He has done for me?
But I do know that one day, when my Lord takes me by the hand, He will peel away my covering of sin to reveal that perfect image… the one that once again will capture His true image of love. And we will both exclaim with delight and joy!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,