Over the years I have encountered many frameworks and paradigms for men to remain faithful to their wives and their God. John Piper in Future Grace speaks of seeing the prize of staying in the presence of God. John Eldredge in Wild at Heart speaks of men seeing sexual integrity as being a fight for their strength.
After reading the June & July 2005 ssues of TableTalk, the excellent daily devotional of Ligonier Ministries , I saw another. Several articles discussed the principle of “Imago Dei”, that man is created in the image of God. Every human being is created by God to be in His image, to have His stamp. Though marred by the Fall, every human retains something of that imprint, and because of that image of the Divine they are worthy of respect and love.
If you have a “Imago Dei” worldview, there is an obvious application: if you view every woman you encounter as being formed in the image of God, handcrafted by Him for His specific purpose, bearing His mark, you are confronted with this image, this ownership, this God. It is very much like the situation of approaching a limo to hot-wire it and then seeing the presidential seal on it—being confronted with that seal would immediately make you reconsider your course of action.
Seeing the sacredness and gravity in how I treat every human I encounter, being rooted in God’s holiness and sovereignty, is a framework for fidelity incorporating the very deepest and truest of both the nature of God and the nature of man.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father” John 14:9
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature Hebrews 1:3
Jesus Christ became flesh, became human, and dwelt (literally “pitched his tent”) among us.
The Bible lists many answers, all true. He was a prophet, He ushered in the new covenant, His death atoned for our sins, His perfect obedience and righteousness provides us righteousness we can never attain for ourselves, He fulfilled the prophecies of old, He was a teacher and interpreter of the law as well as fulfilling it, He healed many.
But one of Christ’s purposes for living on this planet as a human for 33 years had somewhat been pushed aside in my mind, his purpose of being the Imago Dei, the image of God.
In our limited & clouded intellect, it is so hard to imagine the nature of God. I don’t mean the fact that He’s powerful or all-wise, but more His personality, His emotions, His desires, who He is as a person. When you know another person for years, you know more than facts about him, or his IQ, or his particular skills— you know him, who he is, what makes him unique among any other human, things you just can’t put into words.
How can we know God like that? An infinite being? Through Jesus. Through this man who was the “exact imprint of God’s nature.” Through His actions, His desires, His dislikes, His emotions, what moved Him to tears, what moved Him to compassion, what moved Him to anger, was literally what moved God. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”
What an incredible thing— to be both fully God and fully man, and to display it to us. Michael Card speaks of it well in the words of his song The Gentle Healer:
The Gentle Healer came into our town today
He spoke one word that was all He had to say
And the one who had died just rose up straight away
The Gentle Healer came into our town today
Oh, He seems like just an ordinary man
With dirty feet and rough but gentle hands
But the words He says are hard to understand
And, yet, He seems like just an ordinary man
The Gentle Healer, He left our town today
I just looked around and found He’d gone away
Some folks from town had followed Him, they say
That the Gentle Healer is the Truth the Life the Way
I’ve cried for years when I’ve heard that song, and I’ve realized the reason is simply this: it shows me who Jesus is, His nature, His Imago Dei, and that image is beautiful beyond all comprehension, and is worthy of all my love and worship. Even more astounding, it is the image that He has promised to conform me to as well. What a glorious and gracious Savior we serve.
If being human is not simply a matter of being born flesh and blood… if it is instead a way of thinking, acting… and feeling… then I am hopeful that one day I will discover my own humanity. Until then… I will continue… learning, changing, growing… and trying to become more than what I am.
This week’s Monday Media Meltdown features another sci-fi phenomenon well known for grappling with the nature of what it means to be human—Star Trek. Of course, no one really gets obsessive about Star Trek, right? Like maintaining a site that has copies of every script ever written from all the movies and series, which is where I got the above quote?
But I disgress. What does it mean to be human? In one way or another, we all have to answer the question. Some of the behaviorists and biologists say we are no more than a sophisticated animal, a naked ape (to quote zoologist Desmond Morris), a bag of chemicals which exists only to react in certain predictable ways.
Data, the human-wanna-be android of Star Trek, spends much time pondering the nature of humanity and the nature of himself. His above quote at least reveals that he is on to something: to be human is more than just “being born flesh and blood”—for that would put us simply on par with the animals. Data understands that it is something more, “a way of thinking, acting, and feeling”—and he hopes as he learns, changes, and grows, that he may become “human.”
What does it mean to be human? The Bible reveals that to be human is to have been created imago dei—in the image of God, which involves a whole range of what is called God’s “communicable attributes”, those aspects of God’s being that He is able to fashion in finite creatures, like love, laughter, community, compassion, justice, creativity, and choice.
In a way we are just like Data: we understand a little of what it means “to be human”—we see glimpes of love and community and creativity in ourselves and others—but we also sense that something is missing or somehow has gotten messed up. Data’s best answer is the answer most of humanity has chosen: to continue learning, changing, growing, to become a better human along this path of life.
Unfortunately, we know for Data that his is a fruitless quest: he can never become truly, fully human. Likewise, it is a fruitless quest for us: the imago dei within us was permanently corrupted by Adam and Eve’s fall, and there is nothing we can do that can regain it; there is no path we can take back to Eden.
That’s were Christ comes in—his life and death restore our communion with God and regenerate our souls back into something that God can mold into His imago dei. Our new birth comes, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13) So it is only from our new birth in Christ can we regain our true and full humanity.