Why? That was the question I asked in last week’s post. More specifically: Why do we as Christians do the stuff we do? Now by the stuff we do I mean the stuff Christians should be doing, summarized most basically as “loving your neighbor as yourself.” The answer must be both compelling enough to evoke action and sturdy enough to last. Therefore, I suggested that at the most basic level, we do the stuff we do because this is what God is like. In other words, what we do (ethics) is fundamentally rooted in who God is (theology). So here’s the question for this week: Why does this answer make sense? Or in other words: How is what we do rooted in who God is? And to answer that, we turn to the Christian Story.
First off, notice that humanity is not the main character of the Christian Story. God is. Hence, “In the beginning God….” (Genesis 1:1). We then quickly learn that this God is the Creator of all things, and that the creation is good… nay, very good. This tells us, by implication, that the Creator must be very good.
Then we show up. According to the Christian Story, human beings were originally meant to be reflections of what God is like. This is what it means when the author of Genesis writes “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). As mirrors are created to reflect our image, so human beings were created to reflect God’s image. This does not mean humans were intended to ever be God any more than mirrors are intended to be humans. The creator and the creation are utterly distinct. What this does mean, however, is we were created as God’s image-bearers, intended to enjoy a unique and intimate relationship with God while taking care of his world and reflecting his image. What an incredibly beautiful and high calling!
Tragically, as any history lesson, evening news report, or honest soul-searching will reveal, we’ve failed miserably. This is what the apostle Paul was getting at when he wrote, “all
have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He was saying that we’re all broken image-bearers and that instead of reflecting God’s glory and goodness to the world, we fall short and seek to display our own glory. Like shattered mirrors incapable of putting ourselves back together, we are still able to reflect bits and pieces of God’s image, but only in a deeply distorted and incomplete way. The hammer of sin and evil has left its mark on each and every one of us.
But the story doesn’t stop there. Because of his great love, God launched a mission to rescue and restore his broken image-bearers – a plan to bring blessing to “all peoples on earth” (Genesis 12:3). God accomplished this mission by sending Jesus, who, as “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), taught and demonstrated how to faithfully reflect God’s image in the world. Then he was killed. Shamefully. On a cross. However, in a surprising turn of events, Jesus rose from the dead, revealing that his death was actually the victorious apex of God’s mission and the means by which God’s creation would be rescued! The perfect mirror was shattered so that all the others could be restored to wholeness as beautiful reflections of the creator God. It is this sublime, beautiful reality that lies at the heart of the Christian faith: that we see God most clearly by looking at the one who became broken so that we might become whole, reconciling us to the One whose image we were created to bear (2 Corinthians 5:21). And when we admit our sin and brokenness to God and commit our whole selves to the one who became broken for us, we are forgiven and actually given Jesus’ wholeness and begin to be “transformed into his image with ever-increasingly glory” (2 Cor 3:18). We’re also given the incredible privilege of participating in his mission of worldwide rescue and restoration, which is where history is headed. God loves his creation and plans to one day remake all of it, dwelling with his completely restored image-bearers in intimate communion forever (Revelation 21:3-5).
So What Does All This Mean?
Ultimately, this means we were created to reflect what God’s like to the world, and when we do that we are most genuinely human. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to say: We do the stuff we do because this is what God is like. This means our vocation as the Church involves being remade in God’s image and telling the Story. These elements will manifest themselves differently in different contexts, but when it comes down to it our job is to show and tell the world what God is like.
So what does this look like? How exactly does the stuff we do reflect who God is? I’d like to spend the rest of this blog series giving tangible examples of this. One of my incredible privileges (and responsibilities) as a pastor at Chrio is to oversee our global initiatives. Taking one at a time, I will systematically ask the why question of each initiative – Honduras, Kenya, Central Asia, and Thailand – devoting one blog post to each. Please stay tuned!
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