January 18, 2013

Identity: The Imago Dei part 2

Last week we started a new series called Identity. We are looking at what it means for us to gain our identity, our worth, or direction, and purpose from God. Last week we started off by talking about how we are made in the Image of God. This means several very important things for us.

First, it means that we are profoundly valuable to God. We are valued not for our race, our economic status, our ability to produce or contribute...we are inherently valuable to God. The Psalmist writes, “I praise you God because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Second, it means that those around us are profoundly valuable to God. And as Jesus followers, understanding this is the foundation of our ethics. It affects how we view other people, and how we treat other people. Genesis 9 reminds us that the prohibition against taking human life is rooted in the fact that all humans are made in the image of God. James 3 reminds us that how we speak to and about others should be rooted in the fact that they are made in the Image of God.

We briefly mentioned that even though human beings are made in the Image of God...that image has been damaged. It doesn’t fulfill or mean everything God originally intended. So today, I want to delve a little deeper into this idea of how the Image of God is broken. It isn’t until we understand how something is broken that we can really see how it needs to be fixed.

That is the way it is with anything. A mechanic cannot fix your car properly until he or she is able to locate the real problem. Usually, if you have my luck, you hope the repair is small, but then it turns out to be an engine or transmission problem. Very rarely does it happen the other way around...where you think it is something big, and it turns out to be a loose hose or something. But I have heard that it happens.

So let’s take a look at how our reflection of God’s Image is broken and the Grand Plan to fix it. So we will start by looking at the first part of Genesis 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
This is a pretty familiar story for most people. The man and the woman are placed in a garden and given dominion over the animals. They are given only a few limitations. They are allowed to eat from any of the trees in the Garden except for two...The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Sounds easy enough, but just like telling a two year old not to stick their finger in the electrical socket, the man and woman were drawn to it.

So along comes the snake with the temptation, and the woman decides to eat from the tree. We can see that temptation came by way of perfectly reasonable explanation. It was good for food and it was desirable for gaining wisdom.

Now just in case a guy wants to say...see the woman did it! It is all her fault. Make sure you read the last line of verse 6. “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” The man was standing right there. No, you go ahead.

Anyway, God told them in Genesis 2:17, “...for when you eat from [the tree] you will certainly die.” And while physical death was not immediate, Death and Evil entered our world. And as a result of their sin

Our reflection of the Image of God is now broken.

Our passage points us to four different effects of this brokenness caused by sin.

Our relationship with God is broken.

Genesis 3:8-11
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
As a result of their sin, the human-God relationship was damaged. What used to be a close, unobscured relationship has now been tainted and damaged. And this broken relationship has been passed down to each one of us.

In theological terms they call this Original Sin. I have come to the conclusion that the best way to understand Original Sin is in terms of relationship. If your grandparents are close friends with another family. They did everything together. They had dinners together. They played games. They enjoyed each others company. But say one day someone does something to damage that relationship. They each go their own way. They refuse to speak with each other or associate with each other. They even forbid their children to play together. Years later, you will not have a relationship with that family because your grandparents severed the relationship with them.

The man and the woman damaged the human relationship with God that day in the Garden, and put us outside the bounds of relationship with God.

And this broken relationship between human beings and God continues with devastating effects for each one of us. But there are hints in every human being that remind us of this aspect of brokenness. Augustine said every human being has a God-shaped hole, and nothing will satisfy us until we have a restored relationship with God.

We may stuff other things into our life, but if we are to find true meaning and worth in our life...we must restore that relationship with God.

Tim Keller says, “If a soul does not face toward God to receive its worth, then it turns away from God to the world—a career, a marriage, a cause etc.—to obtain value. When this turning away occurs, humanity breaks the image of God in them...”

Our worth comes from being made in the image of God and in learning to have the fullness of that image restored by renewing our relationship with God.

The second effect is...

Our relationship with creation is broken.

There are several examples of this in Genesis 3.

In Genesis 3:14-15 God condemns the Serpent by saying,
 ““Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.”
In Genesis 3:16 God says,
“To the woman...‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.’”
In Genesis 3:17-19, God says to Adam,
 ““Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Human relationship with the animal kingdom...with all of creation was changed. The self-seeking desires that really are the root of temptation spills over into our relationship with the world around us.

Every year we consume more and more natural resources. Using these finite resources as though they are infinite. Consumption in industrialized nations "has led to overexploitation of the resources of developing countries." In many areas of the world hunters and poachers have decimated animal populations to the point of extinction. It is estimated that deforestation destroys 20,000 square miles of natural rainforest each year in the Amazon Jungle alone.

We have a broken relationship with creation. But there are hints of Image left on us...many organizations work each year to protect the natural resources and reduce the damages done by companies to our natural environments, scientists and wildlife management organizations work to protect endangered species of animals, governments pass laws to protect our environments from the effects of our brokenness.

Creation care is more than just a hippie, liberal agenda issue...it is a stewardship and an Image of God issue. We have been given responsibility for the world we live in, and our brokenness and sinfulness affects everything around us...creation included.

Romans 8:19-21 reminds us,
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
Creation looks forward to the day when you and I are restored to the Image of God because it should have an affect on how we care for God’s creation around us.

The third effect is...

Our relationship with others is broken.

We go back to Genesis 3 to see this...

Genesis 3:16,
“To the woman [God] said...Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Genesis 3:20
“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.”
In what is supposed to be the most intimate relationship of which we humans are able to take part...the marriage...this is where the trouble begins. At first glance these might seem like insignificant verses, but they hold way more than you would think.

In Genesis 2:18, when God makes the woman from man’s rib he says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The original word used there is prosopone...meaning face to face. God is not making someone subservient to the man...he is making someone who can stand face to face with the man...can go toe to toe as we might say. She would be his equal in image and dominion...though different in all the right ways.

In Genesis 3:16, the Hebrew uses a word to describe this relationship Eve will have to her husband that has a two-fold meaning...it can mean either being subservient to someone or it can mean trying to make someone subservient to you.”

When the relationships between a man and a woman have trouble...when the arguments start to take place between us and or spouse...women will often assume one of these two roles. Either they will become subservient and weak and refuse to assume their God-given role in the relationship...in dysfunctional, abusive relationships you will hear her say things like, “But He loves me!” and yet allow him to beat her. That’s an extreme example.

Or they will try to make the man subservient to them. They will assume a role that attempts to dominate or manipulate or guilt the spouse into doing things their way...they are attempting to dominate their spouse.

For the man, we see an attempt to dominate and control and dictate to the woman her role in life. Genesis 3:20 “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” In this culture, those who had power over others took authority and often renamed those under them to remind them of who was in control. King Nebuchadnezzar renamed the young men with Daniel to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Adam took on this role by naming his wife. He was dictating her role and place in life through this act.

As the Image of God is restored to our lives...these techniques should fade away. Manipulation and control and power should give way to seeing each other as equals in the Kingdom of God.

But if our most intimate of relationships is broken...how much more broken are our relationships with others...friends, family...not to mention those with whom we have no real connection or concern at all.

Bob Fryling, director of InterVarsity Press, writes:
“. . . With the advent of sin, humanity has twisted this...into domination of other people and of creation itself. Our world-wide environmental crisis and our deep hostilities to other people are distortions of what God intended. But the appropriate corrective to sinful domination is not irresponsibility but a loving stewardship of what God has generously given to us. We have been given the capacity to be accountable and to do things that are good. The Imago Dei calls us to that understanding and commitment.”
But here is the Good News...

Jesus came to restore the broken Image.

We do not have to continue living within our own brokenness.

Genesis 3:15 gives us a hint of this. While God is speaking to the snake he says,
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
While speaking in a very literal sense of enmity and hatred between a woman the snake...there is also in this a statement about the triumph of God over sin. While the serpent may have struck the heel...God will crush its head.”

God’s plan is to restore or fix His broken Image in us through his son Jesus. It starts with our repentance and forgiveness...but continues with Jesus’ continual transformation of our hearts. When you hear some Christians talk it would seem that Jesus is only effective in getting us to heaven or keeping us from hell. But salvation is meant to start us on a journey of restoring the Image of God in our lives and healing our brokenness in these three relationships.

One of the primary goals of the Gospel is to restore us to true humanity by allowing us to be more truly who we were created to be, and this happens when we grow in Christlikeness. This may sound at strange. How do I become more me by becoming more like Jesus? He does not want to take over our personality or turn us into clones... He wants to transform our character, and ultimately restore us to wholeness...making us more authentically ourselves.

And in so doing He brings healing and wholeness to the brokenness or our relationships with God, with Creation, and with each other.

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