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October 7, 2013

What God's Image Looks Like

The transformative power of seeing people through the eyes of Jesus



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The fact that God created us in his image made the incarnation possible. We're so like God that Jesus became fully human forever. Since God's image resides in every human, we can learn to see and call out that image shining through the cracks in the mud of sin and brokenness. Theologians have debated for centuries what exactly constitutes God's image, or the Imago Dei residing in humanity, but for our purposes, several characteristics that differentiate us from the animals can be called forth in others: Our ability to create, manage, and love. When you see traces of his image, point them out. Help people identify with their Maker and seek him with all their hearts, because God promises when they seek, they'll find him (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Creating in His Image

"God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). God's image shines through our ability to create! As God created us, so we create in ways the animals cannot. Think of the bottomless well of human creativity.

Think of the millions of unique songs we've created—from David composing hundreds of psalms sung in 1000 BC, to the hymns Jesus and the disciples sang in AD 32, from Beethoven and Bach all the way to rock, country, rap, and pop. Can you see his valuable image in the creativity and imaginations of others?

You have imagination and an ability to see something that is not, and then dream it into being. Every one of us has that creative ability because of the image of God hidden under the mud. It may come out in painting, music, dance, crafts, or in microprocessor design or interior decorating. Some of us, as we allow the Artist to do his restoration project, will find freedom to dream, imagine, and create again. The image got muddied and damaged, but God wants to restore it. Can you call out his image in people far from God by valuing their creativity, dreams, and imaginations? Letting them know that these gifts come from God will point them to the Creator.

Ruling in His Image

Another aspect of God's image we can point out in others is our ability to govern or manage. "In the image of God he created them…[and he said], 'Fill the earth and govern it'" (Genesis 1:27–28 NLT, italics mine). Our ability to rule, or govern over projects or people, or manage with justice and righteousness refiects God's image in us. Again it gets muddied and marred when we live disconnected from God. Often we use and abuse our God-given stewardship over his earth and his creatures when we work and manage others. But when his image shines through, people notice.

Love is the most important aspect of the image of God in us. God created us for himself—not just as an Artist, but as a Lover, as a Father, as a Mother, as a Friend (he uses every human analogy to describe what he desires)! I have led many couples to faith in Christ by pointing out to them that the love they have is from God. Many had muddied up the image of his love by getting sexually involved before marriage, living together, or controlling and dominating one another rather than submitting to God and each other in love. Yet all this presents an excellent opportunity to connect them to a new vision—a new identity rooted in their loving Maker who wants to help them better love each other.

In every loving act, and in every experience of love, people reveal the image of the Artist. Yes, we muddy up the expression of his love in innumerable ways, but it still comes from him: "Let us love one another, for love comes from God" (1 John 4:7). Yes, humans are totally depraved in every aspect of our being, but that doesn't mean God’s good image is gone. It’s still there, sometimes shining through the cracks in the mud, waiting to be revealed in Christ!

God may need to chip away some of your rough spots to enable you to see and call out his image in others—I pray you'll let him. Imagine if Christians became known as "the most encouraging, creative, loving, life-inspiring people I've ever met." What if people far from God said about you, "I want to be around him because he calls out the best in me"? Why don't we see ourselves with that identity? After all, Christian just means "little Christ." Jesus called out the Masterpiece, and he did so with both grace and truth.

Adapted from Mud and the Masterpiece: Seeing Yourself and Others through the Eyes of Jesus. Copyright 2013 by John Burke. Used by permission of baker books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

Related Tags: Creativity; God's Image; Leading

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