‘Now let Us conceive a new creation—humanity—made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. And let Us grant them authority over all the earth—the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, the domesticated animals and the small creeping creatures on the earth’ –Genesis 1:26.
I have my maternal grandmother’s nose and my father’s eyes. I look more like my father’s side of the family. Some have seen my maternal grandmother’s picture and thought that it’s me as an old lady. I hope I look like her in my 80s–she was ADORABLE!! I hope I reflect all the good parts of both sides of my family in my temperament; but I know that stubbornness runs on both sides. Thankfully, that trait skipped a generation with me…. I do hope my heart reflection continues to change into more of what I think Jesus looked like on earth. I definitely can’t claim even a smidgen of perfection in that area; but I hope people see me growing and learning.
I took a Bible study years ago that I hated. I don’t use that word lightly. In it, the thesis statement was, ‘There is no feminine in the Godhead.’ Not shocking why I hated the study. Every lesson reminded me that the core of my being is not found in God. I had many … um … discussions … with the leaders of the study. Finally, unable to hang with my mental and scriptural gymnastics, they pawned me off to one of the pastors. He was doing a study by the author’s husband on men. He told me that while he hadn’t actually read the one on women, the one on men was terrific. “I’m sure I’d love that one too–you get to relate to God! According to this study, we are an anomaly to Him!” I replied, forcefully. He didn’t discuss much with me after that.
I’ve read several articles about racial inequities in churches. I recently listened to an interview with Muhammad Ali where he talked about why he became Muslim. He humorously asked some poignant questions about the ‘whiteness’ of Christianity. I had pondered some of the questions before, but not really understood the significance of the messages that are sent to minorities. Since I belong to the group in power, I never had the images we present act as a dagger in my spirit. I never internalized the messages that because of the color of my skin, God would not use me to the same degree as He would white people.
Until I took that study. I finally understood what it felt like to have my voice diminished. I finally understood what it felt like to have people say that God doesn’t look like me. That I don’t look like God.
This week, I started to globalize that thought more. It’s what underlies all our culture wars and gender wars in the church. Some churches would say (probably not out loud), “We don’t want God to look like a woman; therefore, the Bible clearly says that women are not to lead men.” Others might say (probably not out loud), “God can’t look like a person of color; therefore, we will exclude their voices from the music industry, from our upfront ministries, from anything but their own churches.” I actually heard people in the South say, “Why would black people want to come to our church? They have their own.”
Why would we want God to look like anyone who makes us uncomfortable?
Is this attitude one of the reasons we don’t want to consider that we have it wrong with Christians who are gay? Are we afraid that God might look ‘gay’? (Whatever that means….) Have we chosen to interpret a very few Bible passages in a way that excludes some because we don’t like what the repercussions are to our view of God if we look to broader interpretations? One pastor of a mega church said that we had feminized Jesus too much, and he couldn’t serve a Jesus that he thought he could beat up. What disturbed me most was that this Christian pastor actually thought about whether or not he could beat up Jesus. I realized that I’ve mostly thought of Jesus in an asexual sort of way. But, I consider Him cutting-edge when it comes to honoring and respecting the voices of His society that those in power diminished and abused.
So what image do those who do not look white or act heterosexual reflect? Do we tell them covertly that they do not reflect God’s image? Yes. We do.
It may not be consciously or with evil intent. But the message rings through, nonetheless. Those who identify with Christ should never feel excluded within churches. We have to do a better job of using our power for including all people–because all people carry God’s image. And we need all those reflections of God’s image so we can see the fullness of God’s heart in our world. Will this make us in power uncomfortable? Probably. But isn’t a little discomfort worth the freedom of Christ for all?
It may scare us. It may make us uncomfortable. But only for a time. Soon, all of the fear and shame would dissolve as we see the beauty of God’s full image.
I’d love to hear from you! What does God’s image look like to you? Have you subconsciously created God in your own image?
I recommend The Shack, if you want to see a broader image of God.