Summary: I cannot overestimate the importance of image - especially in today's culture. It's time for the church to speak up.
“Getting A Clue: Who Am I?”
Gen. 1:26-31 & 2:4-7, 18-25; Col 1:15-20
I cannot overestimate the importance of image – especially in today’s culture. People wander from relationship to relationship, pursuit to pursuit, project to project, social group to social group, social media to social media – all because they are not sure who, at core, they are. And our young people are hit with a daily barrage of messages and brands claiming to tell them who they are; they are constantly influenced and tempted by peers, family, social media, and romantic partners and fantasies. Never has it been more difficult for a young people to discover their identity, and therefore their true value and worth. Dr. Joyce Brothers hit the nail on the head years ago when she stated: “An individual’s self-concept is the core of his personality. It affects every aspect of human behavior: the ability to learn, the capacity to grow and change, the choice of friends, mates, and careers. It’s no exaggeration to say that a strong positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success in life.”
It’s time for the church to speak up loudly and clearly, for we get the clues to our image from God’s Word. When we look at the creation accounts in Genesis, we discover the first clue to our identity: WE HAVE A DIGNITY TO CLAIM. (Gen. 1:26-27) “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Our dignity is BASED ON OUR ORIGIN. We have a chip of God in us! (1) Humans are so special that God created us in His image. Our identity is not found in our physical looks, our sexuality, our popularity, our social status, our family of origin, our job or position, our talents, our activities, our accomplishments, our failures, our peer group, the size of our home, the amount of our bank account. Our identity is based on our origin as creations of God. As the late D. Ivan Dykstra, of Hope College, put it, “Identity is … not a matter of psychology, it’s a matter of theology.” (2)
Since our identity is based on our origin as a creation of God, OUR DIGNITY DOES NOT REST ON OUR QUALITIES BUT ON GOD’S. Each of us is valued by God. That’s why God sacrificed His only Son to redeem and heal us! As The Message translates Galatians 5:25-26: “That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.”
We learn, also, that our dignity is BASED ON GOD’S OWNERSHIP. Remember when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes? Jesus asked for a small coin and said, “Whose portrait is this, and whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” If the money bears Caesar’s image and therefore belongs to Caesar, then SINCE WE BEAR GOD’S IMAGE, WE BELONG TO HIM. I was born of, created by my parents– I belonged to them. We are created by God – we belong to Him. Henri Nouwen drives home the importance of our origin and ownership: “The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace.” (3)
As the Heidelberg Catechism so eloquently paints it: “I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has also set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” This is where our identity starts. You have a dignity to claim.
The second clue to our identity WE HAVE A DESIGN TO FOLLOW. (Gen. 2:7, 21-22) “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being… So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS. Like birds instinctively heading south for the winter, like a flower or tree leaning towards the sun, humans yearn for God – even if they are not aware of it. In his book, Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis wrote that there developed within him a growing awareness that the things he once found deeply satisfying only left him craving for more. He concluded that nothing in this world could ever give him lasting satisfaction and that therefore he must have been created for another world.(4) That other world was his relationship with God through Jesus Christ. WE WERE CREATED TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.