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Image is Everything

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:11-14 Does a life have value, or even necessity, if it makes no apparent or memorable impact on history, society, culture or in any way alter the life of others? While the Sunday school answer is “of course!” and then to add, even pregnancy has impact. But then I think about the way I actually think about people in the aisles at Wal Mart, or walking along Hollowell/Bankhead to or from a bus and probably to or from a menial job or activity. Somehow it is even easier for me to see the value of a homeless person than a no-named person working a menial job, living in a bleak apartment, repeating the same unglamorous routines day after day. Or, if all this seems harsh, what about my response to getting face time with the president of this or that company or organization, or the highly revered leader of this mega-church or well-known actor or athlete? What makes those lives seem more significant to me, more valuable and more appealing than the unknown lady walking down the road with her plastic drug store bag in tow? I think it is more than just a cultural obsession with fame or a type A drive for influence and impact. I think there is something really deeply rooted in my heart that assumes my own value (and consequently the value of others) is quantified by admired achievement and number of followers. Isn’t that how we bloggers are tempted to determine the worthwhile future of our online efforts? If nobody is reading, does the writing still have value? If nobody is following you on Twitter, does it matter what you have to say? If you have zero friends on Facebook, is it worth having a page there? Does the fact that it is never enough speak to anything unhealthy happening underneath? Or, to take a different direction, what about the unrestrained abuse on blogs heaped on those who aren’t passionate about what we are passionate? In the course of one week, I received an e-mail by a politician friend disdaining more than those on the other side of the aisle those who are doing nothing politically and read several blogs in different areas of ministry essentially questioning the faith of those who weren’t involved in the exact same specific acts of service to God’s Kingdom that they were. Isn’t this condemnation of self when the numbers aren’t in my favor and condemnation of others who aren’t in my camp revealing about something to which I have attached my value other than the person and work of Jesus alone? “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matt. 25:45 Jesus repeatedly identifies Himself with “the least of these”, which doesn’t just mean the raggedly dressed, the homeless or the orphans. I’m guessing it includes the whole spectrum of our valuations of “most” and “least”. When I disdain the least, I am disdaining Him. When I feel shame as one of the least (because I am not accomplishing, not being followed, not producing, not broadly impacting), I am clearly wearing the first Adam at the moment following the fall and not wearing the second Adam who clothed even the first.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen. 1:26-28 What I seem to forget is that my own dignity, value and purpose began in creation as one who bears the image of God and remains today clothed in that image even as I move forward toward complete restoration of that image in, through and all over me. When my heart starts trotting down the road of fear and anxiety that I may never publish the book I wrote, that I may drop off the social map as a result of the choices our family is making (as if I was ever on it), that I may become totally disconnected from even the remotest movers and shakers in our culture…the necessity of my breath and life has shifted from the person and work of Jesus alone to the number of those who recognize me and appreciate my being. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Matt. 19:30 I have what feels like an insatiable need to be first…at the buffet table, across the finish line, on the best sellers list, on the invitation list, and on and on. Being first validates my existence where middle of the pack, end of the line or off the list altogether denies my necessity to the planet. Yet in the Gospel, it is God who is the first and the last and in His image alone life is to be found and valued above all earthly treasure. How differently would I cherish the throngs riding buses around town, the generically dressed kids at the public park and my own day lived in anonymity if I began to worship His image rather than man’s, including my own. Oh would I begin to be consumed by His image alone! The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Col. 1:15-18

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