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Imaging God

We must be present with others. This is how God shows himself to the world.

Picture God. We might have a mental picture, but the commandment against graven images tells us not to limit God with our pictures. The Scriptures are full of metaphors to help us relate to God: Father, King, Lord, Shepherd, Rock. When theologians describe God, they often use negatives. God is independent, immutable, infinite, indivisible, and invisible. These are accurate but not positive.

Fundamental to Christian anthropology is that humans are images of God. We are conscious, rational, reflective, social agents. We are authorized representatives of God in the world to develop God’s creation. This understanding affirms all humans’ value.

Our “virtue,” from the Latin meaning our “male/humanness,” is at issue. Another aspect of Christian anthropology is that we have betrayed God and ourselves. We have distorted God’s image, often in the direction of cultural maleness: power, authority, victory, being right. (Read Old Testament history and Kristen Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne.)

Christology

Paul tells us that Jesus, the Son, “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Christ gives us a picture. He lives out Israel’s profound profession of their God. The description of God was first revealed to Moses. Although Moses longed to see God, he could not survive that. God hid him in the “cleft of the rock,” passed by covering him with his hand, and said, “’The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’” (Ex. 34:6). This picture of God became an Israelite profession occurring word for word in praise and prayer in the Psalms 86:15, 103:8. 145:8; Joel 2:13; Nehemiah 9:17; Joel 2:13; and complained about in Jonah 4:2. May this profession and practice unite us.

The LORD is the divine name expressing God’s being and presence. He is the God who is with us. Jesus is Immanuel. We must be present with others. This is how God shows himself to the world. If we profess God, people’s pictures of God will be through how they see us.
Picture God.

Compassionate

Compassion is to “suffer with.” When Jesus saw the hungry and helpless crowds, he had compassion (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:24). Jesus suffered with and for us.
When we enter the suffering of others, they see God.

Gracious

The LORD is first and foremost a giving God. That’s profound. The LORD is not about getting, not even his own glory and praise. God is not selfish. God gives life and breathe to all, but he gives especially to those in need. The Lord gives to those who have no claim. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:15).
People see God, not when they are grabbed, but when an open hand gives.

Slow to anger

We get angry when we think something is wrong, especially when we are wronged. The literal Biblical expression is “long nosed.” Be slow to get in someone’s face. Give them space. Listen. Seek to understand long before making a judgment. As James says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Be patient.

Abounding in Love

This love is “hesed,” the covenant relationship. This love returns us to his name, the LORD, the one who stays with us. The LORD is loyal. “Faithfulness” is the Hebrew word for “truth.” Truth is relational, not objective. This is the love shown in Christ and celebrated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. Don’t miss “abounding,” overflowing (Psalm 23:5), more than enough in Jesus’ feedings (Matt. 14:20) – Not just giving leftovers but giving that creates leftovers.
This is truth, not as fact, but as troth, trustworthiness. This is the LORD.

May the world see this God in and through us. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
Image God.

Author

  • Tom Wolthuis

    Dr. Thomas Wolthuis is a CRC pastor serving as the English pastor of the Chinese Church of Iowa City. He has been a campus minister, institute president, professor, pastor, and church planter. His Biblical Studies podcasts are at www.geneva-ui.org.

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