Enfleshed icons of God’s image

Sarah Breuer has an interesting comment about our mission in this world. She writes,

As enfleshed icons of God’s image, as Christ’s body present on earth, we are called to participate in God’s mission, God’s victory over every oppressive power.

Many in biblical studies take the notion of the image of God to mean a given set of qualities imparted upon man. These qualities might be attributes such as a moral aptitude not given to other animals of creation. In this thinking, mankind, by being created in the image of God, has a moral capacity to know and to engage in moral behavior that is not expected of other animals. While I agree that man has been imbued with a moral capacity, it may have been a characteristic present in the human species itself. We simply don’t know. What we do know is the that the notion of being created in the image of God would have carried more than just a moral quality. In the ancient Near East, bearing the image of a person in power, signified the right to represent that powerful person to all one encountered. A modern day version of this idea would be the large posters on Saddam Hussein plastered to buildings and roadside signs throughout Iraq prior to the Gulf War. Another version would be the large Soviet Union crests and pictures of Joseph Stalin throughout the former Soviet Union until the late 1980’s. What role did these images play in the residents of these two counties? The icons reminded them who was in charge and the character of that person. The posters and crests were icons that represented the actual power (person) that stood behind them. As creatures created in the image of God, regenerated, and now part of Christ’s body, we are called to represent God’s mission in this world. More than the posters that adorned buildings or crests that perched on buildings, we are live representatives of God’s character in this world. Further, the aforementioned icons represented the fearful repercussions that extended from the flawed character of those rulers. In contrast, Christ-followers are called as Sarah puts it, to participate in “God’s victory over every oppressive power.” As God’s image-bearers, we represent, the restoration available to all through Christ. However, it doesn’t stop there; for we are called to act as God acts: to represent his righteous and just character. This means we must be proactive in issues of peacemaking, relief of oppression, and bearing of justice in our world. Our mission is to proclaim the freedom offered by our King and to cry out for justice and relief for the helpless and downtrodden: To be enfleshed icons of God’s image.

(Sarah Dylan Breuer. The Justice Project (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith) (p. 36). Kindle Edition.)



Filed under Ethics, Philosophy, Theology

5 responses to “Enfleshed icons of God’s image

  1. Tom Littlejohn

    Well said. This took me back as well to, “You shall not make any graven image”, Exodus 20:4. God has stamped every man in His image, and has made some into the body of Christ. He has designed Himself into the fabric of our world – we rub solders with countless people in the course of the week, and they all have been made in His image. God does the work of revealing Himself. Just as man can not make a legitimate image of God, the follower of Christ cannot make himself – purely through his fleshly abilities – into what the Body of Christ should represent. The Holy Spirit must do that work. Man must desire and long for that work.

  2. Tom Littlejohn

    For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 ESV)

    • Good words Tom. There are so many passages of Scripture that come alive based on this motif. Many of them are connected in some way to ethics/justice or representing God in a proper manner. All of them are rooted in creation/re-creation/de-creation- creation, Genesis 1-2; re-creation, Romans 8:29 (mentioned above); de-creation, Exodus 20:4. In making graven images one is undoing (in a sense) what God has placed before us. I also think of all the passages in the prophets that contain the notion of de-creation based on desecration of the image of God.