Man - The Image Of God
by Birgit Barandica Eichberger, December 2006
Part of the famous pinting "God creates Man" by Miquelangelo,
to be seen in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
"... in His own image, ..." - a great word, isn't it? Yet I guess it was the simplicity of the words that made me lose sight of their greatness. I knew this bible verse from early childhood. But its meaning was always a mystery for me. I simply accepted it the way I heard it without further thinking. When I asked what "...His own image" meant, I heard "be like Him". Well, I simply left it there then because I couldn't understand how this should be possible, to be like God... So I never went any deeper into it. But I wanted to know how God is as His existence was a fact to me. By the time, it became a burning longing in me. I wanted to be close to Him. But He seemed so far away, so abstract and unapproachable. And so I think that my future way was a logical concequence: looking for God everywhere, without finding any true answer, thus ending up in New Age, which in the German language is called esoterism. This German term now is important as you will see...
The church wasn't of a big help either. I was born into the Lutheran Church (which in Germany is sort of a state church), and as there was nothing there that would hold and keep me there, I changed to the Catholic church at the age of 13 or 14. Both churches are being seen here as the two Big Churches, as people call them here. Other churches are not taken into consideration and thus easily being called "sects". I talk about this here, as it is very different in other countries like the USA, for example.
My search for God became more and more intense. Pompous liturgies, overwhelming choirs, incense, confession, bell ringing and many more things fascinated me on one hand, but on the other hand made God seem more and more inapproachable to me. Somehow, He seemed to be locked in in the tabernacle, inaccessible for everyone not being a catholic priest. Tabernacle is the name of the Holiest of Holy in the Jewish temple, where the Arc of the Covenant was stored and where only the high priest had access to once a year, on order to bring the sacrificial lamb, the Passover Lamb. In the Catholic church though, tabernacle is the little cabinet in which the housel is stored. The housel is being looked at and worshipped as the body of Christ. At the Eucharist, as the Lord's Supper is called in the Catholic church, the priest solemnily takes the housel out the tabernacle and after it, locks it in there again.
What at the end kept me in the Catholic church those days was this incredibly well functioning youth group I belonged to. It gave me some secure, pleasant and relatively intact growing up years, catching up family insufficiencies. Only - God was not to be found there, despite of it being a church...
When some years later, I moved to the other far end of the town, I did not join the local church there, as there was nothing there for me... My people and my church were far away, so what could this other church offer me? I searched for God everywhere else, since I learned by experience that He was not to be found in the church...
His image... There were moments where this felt distance toward God became a physical pain.
Esoterism means knowledge of the hidden, the mystic. So it was the most logical step for me to dive into esoterism, for if God was so mystic that He had to be hidden in this tabernacle, then He most certainly was only to be found in the secret mystery. I do hope you can relate to what I'm saying here. I am sure that many people are thinking in a similar way. So I tried several esoteric, new age ways and finally ended up in a teaching that somehow lifted "Christianity" up, but only as to their own teachings. They only referred to the Bible when it said something that would fit into their teachings, otherwise they only referred to their own literature (exactly this is one of the characteristics of Christian sects and cults: a literature next to the Bible that is referred to the same as the Bible or even exclusively). The danger is evident if you tear scripture apart without realizing what the Bible really is: God's Word! The term God's Word is often used, but appearently it has become independent somehow so that the meaning behind it cannot be seen anymore, let alone understood.
When several years later I got to know Jesus as the Son of God and my redeemer, I came also closer to the meaning of the term "image of God". Today, I am sure that the understanding of this meaning can only come by giving myself to God. We find this clearly described in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." We receive this Spirit of God only by dedicating our lives to Jesus.
The moment Jesus died, there was a strong earthquake with several consequences (Matthew 27:50-54) and one of it was that the very tall, heavy curtain which seperated the Holiest of Holy, the tabernacle, was torn in two. It happened from top to bottom. This is a very important detail, so nobody can say that a person quickly did this, thus taking advantage of the earthquake. It would have been very difficult for any person and only possible had he torn this curtain from bottom to top. Yet like this, from top to bottom, it was completely impossible. It was a sign from God for people to realize that from now on, the tabernacle is accessible for everybody. Because there had been given a sacrifice that outstood by far the hitherto sacrifice of the Passover Lamb as reconciliation for the last year's sins of the people. Jesus' sacrifice, however, took the sin of the world for once and forever. Whoever accepts this sacrifice that Jesus Himself gave, is being redeemed from life in sin. By His sacrifice we can join in fellowship with God again. And the Holiest of Holy, the tabernacle, does not exist any longer in the sense it did before, because now, all of us who have accepeted Jesus' sacrifice, can enter it at anytime.
God is longing for us so much that He gave this sacrifice! The part of the painting above shows it so very clearly: two hands in search for each other. Say for example you are a great animal lover - I am one - this gesture in the painting will never be possbile toward an animal, no matter how much you love it. It is only possible between two of the same kind.
And here we are right in the middle of our topic: no matter how much greater than us God is, we are like Him! Of course, this does not mean that we are 100%ly the same (I guess no-one will presume to be God), but of His likeness. Do you see the difference? This is why God, in the course of the creation story says in Genesis 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,...".
"Knowing Jesus as the Son of God and my redeemer", like I said before.... Doesn't that mean: God, Jesus, I - we somehow belong together? And when learning in the Bible that Jesus is Man and God, both to 100% each, then it must have to do with me in one form or the other, right? Jesus became like us and not like an animal or any other being. And He has feelings, emotions just like us! Jesus is God's face turned toward us, as someone once said it. And exactly this is the explaination of "His image"! Got what I said? :)
In the following, scriptures from Old and New Testament are mixed as they don't have a common context.
God has given man also from His creativity, which contributes to His image, yet creativity is not my topic here. It is the following:
"God is love", as we read in 1 John 4:16. Which means He can love and He does love. A very human thing to do, isn't it? "For God so loved the world that he..." John 3:16 - one of the key sentences in the Bible. You might be surprised to learn how often we hear of God's love even in the Old Testament! Just take a look at theses scripture parts here:
"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed", Exodus 15:13. "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin" Exodus 34:6. "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you ("upon you in LOVE" it says in German) and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace" Numbers 6:24-26. "But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefatherss that he brought you out from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt" Deuteronomy 7:8. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me", sings David, Psalm 13:5-6. The psalms are full of God's love! Would David and the other psalm writers talk so overwhelmedly about God's love if the opposite were true? "I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness (in German it says LOVE here) I will have compassion on you, says the LORD your redeemer", Isaiah 54:8. This is what God's character reveals: His love is so big, so complete that His anger only lasts for a short while!
God also senses anger, like in the temple for example, when Jesus angrily overturned tables and benches and drove the money changers out for converting His Father's house into a "den of robbers" gemacht haben, Mark 11:17. Or God's rage about the corruption of the people which outpours in the Flood or also in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus' rage concerning the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy, Matthew 23. And also His rage in conjunction with His grief that even friends mistrusted Him, John 11:33. These are all situations in which also we would react angrily and with rage, wouldn't we?
God senses grief; also this is very human: in John 22:35 we read for example that Jesus weeps when hearing of Lazarus' death. At several points of the Old Testament we read that Gd had compassion with His people. For example Judges 10:16 says, "And he could bear Israel's misery no longer." And in Matthew 9:36 we read: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion them, because they were harrassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd." In Matthew 20:35 Jesus has compassion because of the suffering of a blind man. In Isaiah 16:9 God tells His people through His prophet that He is weeping with the inhabitants of certain towns as they were attacked by enemies. In Luke 7:13, Jesus is completely moved by the grief of a widow about her dead son: "... his heart went out to her". In Luke 19:41 Jesus despairs about the futur destiny of Jerusalem and weeps. What a deep sensitivity...
And what about fear? Yes, God also knows fear - even fear of death: In Mark 14:34, Jesus tells His desciples in the garden of Gethsemane, shortly before His arrest, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch." Like each one of us, also He is in need of company while being in a situation of fear. But they left Him alone falling asleep and not watching Him as it was His need and desire. How must He have felt when He saw them there laying asleep... Luke 22:43 says that He felt so bad there in His agony that an angel came to comfort and strengthen Him. "And being in anguish, he prayed morer earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground", verse 44. Can you come even close to the imagination of how He must have felt all that time? "Father, this is so difficult for me; I can't bear this. Father, please spare me from it if it is any possible..." I feel my stomach cramp when thinking of this... "But Father, I trust in you. I submit to your decision."
Yet even though we are not supposed to remain at that point, we should at least for one moment stop and try to fathom this situation, in order to understand at least a tiny bit of what Jesus has done there for you, for me, for your mom, for your dad, for your friend, for my parents, for my son, for my husband, for... well, for really everybody in this world.
And God the Father in Heaven felt exactly the same into its smallest detail what Jesus felt - for both are ONE (John 10:30 and 14:11). But do you know what this also means? It means that He knows our sorrows, hurtings our distress. He knows what you are going through right now. And He doesn't let you alone either!
Here I could only compile some few examples, but there are so many more in the Bible. It's all quite human what is described there, isn't it? This is the image that God had put into us! We call it "human", but in reality we should call it "godly"! In 1 John 4:19 we read that God first loved us. Exactly like this, I understand those other things, too: God first had all emotions and then, when creating us, He put them into us. Now we are having them, too!
Yet His love goes so much deeper than our human love is able. You can clearly see this in His grief about our seperation from Him; a grief which instantly turns into the gratest love ever, when at the moment of man's fall, He decides the solution to the redemption of mankind! A solution that cost Him everything and was given to us freely! You have to savor this for a moment - isn't it overwhelming?
Listen to what Zephaniah says prophetically about us in chapter 3, verse 17:
"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
Just imagine, "..., he will rejoice over you with singing" - what a thought!!! Just one thought out of many that makes our God so unique! Wouldn't you like to belong to this God, too?