Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” – Genesis 1:26 (NRSV)
The Mona Lisa is probably the world’s most famous – and expensive – painting. It’s valued somewhere between NZ$1.3 billion and priceless. The painting is believed to be of Lisa del Giocondo, wife of a wealthy Italian silk merchant. Of course, we don’t really know if the painting is a good likeness, since no one is left alive who knew Lisa del Giocondo. And the painting gives us very limited information about Lisa del Giocondo. It doesn’t tell us what she was like as a citizen, wife, mother, or friend.
The first readers of Genesis 1:26 had a similar problem. They were told they were the image of someone they couldn’t see and didn’t know a whole lot about. Maybe that’s why they turned out to be not so good at image bearing. To be fair we haven’t done such a great job either, especially when it comes to treating each other or creation as things that delight God!
It’s not until the gospel writers introduce us to Jesus that we get real insight into what it means to be the image of God. In Jesus we see ‘the person behind the painting’. And the ‘person’ turns out to be full of grace, love, service, and sacrifice. We discover that to be God’s image is not to have dominion but to have compassion. I think God in Jesus would have surprised the first readers of Genesis!
Now here is another question. If the Mona Lisa was damaged, or someone graffitied it, or ripped it, or tore it down and stomped on it, would it still be a painting of Lisa del Giocondo? The answer, as long as there was something left that was recognisable, is ‘yes’. Jesuit priest Greg Boyle has said ‘The wrong idea has taken root in the world. And the idea is this: there just might be some lives out there that matter less than other lives’. There might also be the wrong idea that there are some lives out there that are lesser images of God than other lives. Nowhere does the Bible say that! I work for a mission that works with homeless, broken, lonely, and often addicted people. Our guiding principle is ‘no us and them’.
We are all in this together – all marred images of a perfect God.
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THIS DEVOTIONAL IS WRITTEN BY Allan Davidson
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