Genesis 1:26–28, Genesis 4:1–2, Genesis 5:1–3, 2 Corinthians 3:16–18, James 1:22–25 (read online ⧉)
When we are born we may, or may not, be an image of our parents. As we get older, the comparisons become easier, and especially as we tend toward the end of our lives, we really resemble our parents. “Spitting image” was an old phrase used to indicate that there was an almost identical image of child to parent, or “could be twins” is another. How we look is very much part of our self-identification. Often we are dissatisfied with the genes we were given and how our lives have played into or against those genes.
If you read the 3 vignettes is Genesis you might have recognized that something was missing in the second one. In the first story, humankind (Adam and Eve) is made in the image of God. In the third story, Seth is in the image of Adam. In the second story, there is no mention of image. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Cain and Able were not stated as being the image of Adam or Eve. They were in the image of God as all humankind was, but not their biological parents. Were we the parents, would we not have questions if “our” children were not in our image (barring adoption, of course)? Is there some deep theological meaning here? Probably not. Yet, it is something that should cause us to question what exactly is occurring here. We will probably never know.
Image still remains important, as image does have an important place in all of the Scriptures. There were all the mentions of images of gods and creatures for worship, and how bad this was, and how it contributed to the Israelites walking away from God.
Paul takes image a new direction. Here he uses a mirror as the medium for us to see the glory of God inside each of us. Think of that! We can see the image of God inside of us! Yes, it is a figurative thing. At the same time, it should be a way of thinking about ourselves and seeing ourselves. We are often overly concerned about what we have done wrong, while not living in the freedom that we have in Christ. We ourselves try to put a barrier (the veil) between ourselves and seeing the image of God in us.
James alludes to this in his words, talking about looking at ourselves then “forgetting” what we look like. It does appear that James is thinking more that people are deliberately forgetting what they look like. As we tie this into Paul’s words, when we do not operate in the faith that God is loving and merciful, we forget who we are in Christ, which goes right back to Paul’s example of putting a veil back on.
The world doesn’t want us to think in the way Paul and James want us to think. The world wants us to forget who we are in Christ. The biggest issue, and the one we fall prey to, is that they try to tell us that we are not a child (or children) of God when we fail. This is Paul’s real message of grace to and for us. Not only are we the children of God, we are also becoming the children of God, and it is only by willingly and lovingly looking at the image of God in each of us (and each other) that we continually are transformed into the purified expression and image of God that is in us, and that God sees in us.
1) Why do you think neither Cain nor Able were not noted as being in the image of a parent, while their brother was? There is no right or wrong answer that we know of, but it is a question to ponder.
2) Why do you think people put a “veil” on? What do you think Paul is referring to in your life?
3) Why is it important to remember that we are and are yet becoming children of God?