Who are you? Tough question. And I’m always intrigued by how people answer it. Some jump straight to their family, others focus on occupation. Some tell me where they live, others what church they go to. Each does it a little differently.
But everyone tells a story.
It’s true. Try it. You’ll have to press a bit to get beyond the surface stuff, like their name. But when they try to tell you who they really are, they always tell their story.
Deep down, we just know that we’re storied people, that our history has meaning. It shapes us.
But, for some reason, we don’t connect this insight to understanding the image of God. And that’s tragic. Because the imago comes at the beginning of a story. And the only way to understand it fully is to hear the story.
It makes sense. If you’re watching a movie and a character pops in during the opening scene, you’re not going to pause the movie and try to figure out who she is and why she’s important. You’ll watch the movie, finding her identity in the story that unfolds.
It’s the same with the imago. Genesis 1 is just the prologue to a much larger story. So if we really want to know what’s going on, we need to let the movie roll.
The Story of Israel & the Image of God
And what happens when we do? We see God faithfully manifesting his presence in creation through his people despite their constant unfaithfulness.
I said earlier that understanding the image of God is tough because there’s not a lot of data in the Bible. But that’s only true if you miss the fact that, to a large degree, the whole story is about the image of God. In the Garden, God created a people through whom he would manifest his presence in creation. In Abraham, God makes it clear that this is still his intention. His plan hasn’t changed. He will still have a people, and he will still make himself known through that people. In Israel, we watch the story unfold. God’s people, God’s presence, God’s creation. It’s all there.
In the Old Testament, you understand the image by reading about Israel. The story of God and his people.
The Story of the Church & the Image of God
The climax of the story, of course, arrives with Jesus. He is the only who truly manifests the personal presence of God in creation. But isn’t it a little weird that the story doesn’t stop there? We now have God himself in human form. Perfection. What else could we possibly need?
We ran into this in the Garden as well. You’d think that Adam living in perfect relationship with God would be about as good as it could get. But God said no. He wanted more. And he created a people.
In the NT, we see the same thing. Jesus is perfect. But God had more in mind. A people.
And that’s exactly what we see as the story unfolds. God hasn’t given up on his plan of manifesting his presence in creation through his people. With the church, God continues that story. The same story.
The Story of the End & the Image of God
And it’s a story that runs all the way to the end (which is what stories usually do). Just read Revelation. What do you see? God. His people. His presence. His creation. Forever.
It’s a good story.
And we need the whole story to understand what the image of God is all about. The image of God isn’t just found in places like Genesis 1 and 2 Corinthians 3. The image of God is stamped on every page.