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In Whose Image?

I know of no one who has done more for humanity than Jesus. In fact, there is nothing wrong with Christianity . . .  The trouble is with you Christians. You do not begin to live up to your own teachings.
-Mahatma Gandhi
 
We're made in God's image.  We've heard it said countless times, even if we don't know exactly what that means (though, if you're interested, this is a great place to start).
 
One important piece of this is that we, each and every one of us, reveal God to the world.  Even "the heavens declare the glory of God," after all.  And human beings are something even greater: icons of Christ, the Icon of God the Father.
 
However we need to be careful.  The image we carry can become distorted.  Like a picture spattered with mud, our souls can become disfigured by our sins.  Our misshapen character can affect what we show the world.
 
So, when people see us, do they see Christ, the Son?  Do they see the God the Father?
 
Or do they see someone else?
 
God is love.  And love, true love, is not conditional.  It has no strings attached.  It is freely given, a gift completely undeserved and unearned.  That is the love we're called to offer, since God is the One we're called to image in our lives.
 
Yet it seems that we offer love most freely when it's easiest.  When others are acting as we think they should, we're all smiles.  When they do otherwise, we build up walls.  We cut them off.  Our smiles are replaced by vicious, angry stares.
 
Instead of acting in love, we react in sin.
 
Who exactly are we manifesting when we do so?  When people see us, whose image do they see?
 
God is love.  The one, true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Israel; the God of our Fathers; the God we receive at every Eucharist; the God who invites us to share in His eternal life and joy; does He love us any less when we stumble?  Is the Bridegroom's love for His Church ever anything less than absolute?
 
Unfortunately, the god we image to the world (and yes, even worship) is not aways the God who truly Is.  As it happens, the god we sometimes manifest is the idea of god that we've built over time.  It's the idea of a bloodthirsty god of atonement and wrath and damnation, who only seems to love us when we please him.
 
It's the idea of a god whose love is not active but reactive.  In one hand he holds a treat, and will reward us when we jump through the right hoops.  In the other, he holds fire, ready to make us suffer us whenever we falter.
 
 
Do we worship (and image) the One True God, or a god of our vain imagining?
 
Of course (and thank God for it), no matter how much we may obscure it, we remain icons of Christ.  We can see it every time a mother gently wipes her crying child's eyes, every time an elderly married couple walks hand in hand, every time a young man offers his seat to a pregnant woman.
 
God's love is victorious.  When we can see it, we will find peace.  When we cultivate it, we will become who we were born to be.
 
Originally posted at http://orthodoxyouthministry.blogspot.com/.
 
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