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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jesus Ranks in the Top Ten...

A Thursday Theology guest post by, Phil Michaels:

“…you thought that I was one just like yourself…”

---Psalm 50:21b (inspired through Asaph)

Maybe there’s no God. Or, if there is a God, maybe that God is nothing at all like I thought.

But…for just a moment, if you will, bear with me, and let me go with the presumption that the Scripture that says, “God created humans in the image of God” is descriptive of a truth about all of us: We are like God. Most Christians, Jews, many Muslims, and a good number of other people ascribe to this as a truth, so I’m not alone here in going with a presumption that as much of 2/3 of the human population believes to be true (and no, that consensus doesn’t make it true (consensus never does)…but, let’s just go with it for a moment…)

This is not the same as saying we are God-like. It is to say, as the Scripture does, that we are made in God’s image (The precise Hebrew is “צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎,” or transliterated, “tzelem Elohim” – in Latin that’s “imago dei”; and for those who speak English, “the image of God”). We are “like God” but not “God-like.” There is much in us that bears the stamp, the image, the likeness of God…but there are also some qualities we do not bear. There is a difference, an otherness, between Creator and creation, between God, and us. We are the same, yet different.

Being human, we all make mistakes, and sometimes the mistake we make is the same one Asaph speaks of in Psalm 50: We think that God is just like us.

God is not just like us. God is not just like you. God is not just like me.

But oh, how often we wish that God was, even if we don’t realize it.

God is not in the image of a pastor.

God is not in the image of a professional athlete.

God is not in the image of a political leader.

God is not in the image of a published book.

God is not in the image of Phil.

So…what is God’s image?

One Word: Jesus.

I could be wrong about this. Perhaps no human can show God’s image. Perhaps no thing can show what God is like. Perhaps there is no God, at all.

But…if we can point to any human who has lived as being God’s image, I cannot imagine any clearer picture than that of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And if I am honest, Jesus is not anything at all like me. Jesus is not a reflection of who I am. I know who I am. I know who Jesus is. And Jesus, quite decidedly, is not me! I am not God-like.

And yet…somehow…just maybe…in spite of this, it is possible for me to become like Jesus. To become like God. I’ll never be God (we should all be thankful…I can’t imagine how badly I would mess that up…wait, maybe I can…). But maybe there is a possibility that I could be like God? Like…Jesus? More like Jesus than I was when I was born? Or when I was a child? Or an extended adolescent? Or…today?

Most days it seems I cannot even live up the very minimal requirements of the roles I have and the person I should be as a human. How could I expect myself to ever be like…of all people…Jesus?

I think it has to start with acknowledging, not only with my mind, but with my heart and soul, that Jesus is not like me. Jesus is not “one just like myself.” I am not the starting point. Jesus is. I am also not the ending point. Jesus is. This is probably why Scripture says that Jesus is “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

Again, Jesus may or may not be your ‘#1’, but on any list of “Top 10 Best People of All Time,” Jesus Christ of Nazareth is going to be right up there, right? I mean, from all that we know of him, it’s pretty difficult to find fault with the guy!

For me, I think I need to acknowledge that Jesus is, indeed, ‘#1’. And I am not. If this all sounds pretty generically evangelical at this point, I apologize…sort of…but, not really. Maybe it is time to stop getting hung up on what things sound like, or what labels people (myself included!) might put on things, and simply acknowledge what is true:

Jesus is God-like.

I am not God-like.

But…thanks be to God…Jesus is transforming me and making me more like…Jesus…

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