From Genesis 1
“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.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them”
“‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (+). Amen.
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them”
It is a phrase that many of us must have heard tens if not hundreds of times. God created humankind in God’s own image. It is right here in the very first story told in the Bible. But what do we mean when we talk about humankind being made in God’s image?
I think we can probably move beyond images of God as an old man with a white beard. Being made in the image of God does not simply mean that we look like God physically.
So what is it that humans possess that the rest of creation does not? Well, multiple views have developed over the centuries and there is still no consensus as to exactly what is meant.
Some theologians have stressed that humans share some of the characteristics of God, particularly the higher brain functions of creativity, memory, intellect, reason and the ability to exercise free will.
Others emphasize the similarity between God’s divine Kingship and rule over creation with humanity’s appointment as guardians of that creation – humanity has a similar role to God in relation to the rest of the created order.
Still others focus on the way humans have capacity for forming complex relationships. Of the various views, this is the one that really spoke to me. God is a God of relationship and the image of God in us is the ability to be in relationships: with one another, and supremely with God.
God’s relationship with humankind is portrayed as a bit of a bumpy ride in the Bible, but in the end it seems to boil down to one word: Love.
The first letter of John tells us straightforwardly that “God is love”. God is love. The same letter goes on to say that we are capable of love because God first loved us. God’s love came first and that is reflected in our own ability to love God back and to love one another.
How has God shown love to us? Firstly, in the act of creation itself. Now is not the time to get into a discussion of the overwhelming scientific evidence for things like The Big Bang and biological evolution. What matters when we talk about God and creation is not how it happened but why it happened. The Big Bang and evolution might be the “how”, but God is the “why”.
God is the reason we are all here; God is the reason why anything is here at all. God did not have to create the universe, but did so out of great love: great love which God continued to show to creation, and above all to humankind.
God’s love remained even when the creation turned away from its Creator; when humankind turned away from the ways of God and tried to go our own way. The stories of the OId Testament tell us how God continuously called people back into relationship when they had gone astray – like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep as Jesus would later describe it. God never stopped loving creation.
Then the fullness of God’s love for the world and for humankind was shown in Jesus Christ. The incarnation of God as the man Jesus Christ was only possible because of the great love of God. A love which would eventually lead to the cross, where humanity violently rejected God’s love, and God showed once and for all that love was stronger than death. Love wins.
In Jesus Christ we truly see what it means to be formed in the image of God. St Paul in his letters says this again and again – Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Humankind was always intended to grow into the image of God and we do that by looking to Jesus and trying to become more like him.
How exactly do we go about doing that? I would like to offer two suggestions.
The first is to read and study what is written about Jesus in the New Testament and try to walk the path Jesus showed us: to follow Jesus’s teaching and to do what Jesus did.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus encourages us to loosen our attachment to physical possessions. Jesus seems to single out attachment to and worries about food, drink and clothing, but the general thrust is about possessions in general. Only a few verses before today’s passage Jesus warns His disciples more generally about storing up treasures for ourselves on earth.
Instead of material possessions Jesus instead encourages us to seek the Kingdom of God. To seek out those places where God’s love is active, and to seek out those places where we are called to show God’s love ourselves.
The second thing we need to do is to love. Jesus sums up all of the ancient scriptures in two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.”
These two are more closely related than we might initially think. If all humans are made in the image of God, then to love our neighbour is to love God. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus talks about the day of judgement when all humankind will answer for how we have lived ours life and how we have treated our fellow human beings.
Jesus tells us that when we feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, or visit someone in prison we are doing those things for Jesus. When we fail to do those things for our fellow human beings, we fail to do them for Jesus.
How will we love God and how will we love our neighbour? Perhaps that’s a question to ask yourself today.
Perhaps your great act of love will be to devote yourself to some great work or project to help those in greatest need – the homeless, the lonely, the refugees, those who have lost hope.
Perhaps you will best show the love of God in the attitude you take to everyone you meet. You will treat them as Christ would have treated them. You will see the image of God in everybody.
Or perhaps your greatest work of love will be directed to one specific person. It won’t be well known, but your love is the only thing keeping this person going, this child of God.
Maybe your greatest act of love is already in the past, or maybe it is yet to come. Maybe you worry that you’re not doing enough, not giving enough of yourself. Do not despair. There is always time with God.
How will you love God and how will you love your neighbour?
Think about it. Pray about it. Then act on it.