Image and Likeness
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good. Genesis 1:26a, 31a
In a recent issue of the comic strip, Family Circus, middle brother Jeffy draws a picture of his older brother Billy. Billy says, “Hey, I don’t look like that!” Jeffy replies, “Maybe you don’t know what you really look like.” I believe this cute illustration captures a key issue behind many of our problems: We do not know what we really look like. More accurately, we have forgotten in whose image we were created.
An image is an identical counterpart produced by a reflection. A likeness, on the other hand, is a representation or a semblance of something – not identical, but similar. In the cartoon, Jeffy is creating a likeness, but Billy expects an image.
Each of us shares a common image – that of God – but we manifest differently as God’s likeness. Collectively, we display an infinite variety of God’s hues, shapes, and characteristics. When we look in the mirror, however, we see only an imperfect likeness. Many of us are unhappy with that likeness because we believe we are too short or too fat, our hair is too thin or too grey, our clothes don’t fit quite right, or our shoes don’t match our purse. Something important is always missing, misshapen, or mismatched. And something is always wrong because what we see in the mirror is a reflection of God’s likeness – a representation of one aspect of God – and not the entire image we so desire to reflect. Our divine image becomes hidden beneath our likeness to the point where it is easy to forget the image from which we originated. We are conditioned to only see the likeness and not the image, thus becoming obsessed with our appearance instead of our essence.
Our divine image is always there, however. We see the image of God in another when we look deeply into their eyes, or when we catch them uninhibitedly being their most beautiful and pure self (think child-like). The moments are rare, but they are there for the seeking. Likewise, we display God’s image when we let go of our concerns about how others see us, or what others expect from us – when we know we are good enough as we are, where we are – good enough to be loved and valued by God. When we dance like no one is watching, or sing like no one is listening, we do so from a place of ultimate freedom. In that place of unconditional love, we are free to realign our likeness into something more consistent with our image – something that will touch others at a soul-level. As we better reflect God’s image, we are better able to positively impact our world.
Come home to church this Sunday. Discover what you really look like.