One of the fun things that surrounds the birth of a new baby is how almost every person who meets this little charmer ascribes traits to the baby that look like his or her mom or dad (sometimes a grandparent). As the child grows those likenesses often change and their personalities become distinctive while still showing to whom they are related.
When we are old enough to hear those comments, we are sometimes embarrassed and other times blessed. Sometimes we see what they are saying about us and sometimes we don’t. Often (especially as teens or young adults) we want to be seen for ourselves versus as someone else.
I wonder if we spend much time considering whom we look like as God’s image bearers.
What difference would it make in how we spoke or behaved if we did?
If we are truthful we must acknowledge that we sometimes bear little resemblance to the Lord. If we assess our walk with Him carefully, we will hopefully discover that we look more like Him than we once did after first coming to know Him.
The transformation the Lord intends through sanctification moves us along a path from wounded brokenness to increasing wholeness through his grace and mercy. He loves us to the point where we can face the truth of who we are and are not. Then He shows us who we are meant to be.
Andrew J. Bauman puts it this way in his new book, Stumbling Toward Wholeness:
“To live into who we are meant to be in God’s family, we must wholeheartedly embrace the radical truth that we are image bearers of the divine, beloved by the God who created us.”
How do we get to that place?
Bauman points us to the path:
“…all redemptive change begins when we see ourselves accurately, through God’s eyes. When we deeply accept our Father’s embrace, we will be neither self-rejecting nor prideful; rather, we will become humble and grateful. We will no longer be in bondage to self-indulgent, self-annihilating, self-loathing, self-righteous, or self-aggrandizing. Instead, we will see ourselves as God sees us and move into true freedom – to change, to serve, to love.”
Bauman’s words bring the truth into bold relief that we cannot miss.
How can we look like Him if our focus is on self in either of the directions he notes? How can we love like Him if we are self-loathing, self-protecting, or elevating ourselves all the time?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34 (ESV)
There are voices in the church today calling the body to account today for our lack of focus on the Word as well as our failure to look like the God we say we serve. Before we defend against their words, perhaps we should seek the Lord about the veracity of their words and charges.
Many (if not most) enter the church body as broken people for a lengthy list of reasons most of you could name or add to if I gave you my own list. The church is to be where that brokenness is to begin to be mended in the progressive work of transforming sanctification and yet more often than we would like or even wish to admit, damage is often done within this context through relational sin.
“Relational sin is simply a refusal to love; it’s the choice (at times unconscious) to use, betray, or commodify an image bearer of God.” Bauman
It can still be easier to judge the sin (usually behavioral) and call someone into account rather than looking at the broken person and being a channel of love and grace to move them toward God rather than leave them in shame. Too often we forget that it is both/and. We do not condone sin, but that should not lead us to condemn. It should lead us to look like Jesus when the religious leaders of the day sought to follow the law and stone the woman caught in adultery.
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (ESV)
Do I look like Him?
Lord, help each of us to grow more into YOUR likeness.