This is a guest post by Paul Ghaly from Sydney, Australia. He is works with Asaph Tunes, which is a music service that aims to encourage young Orthodox Christian artists to write and sing new songs using contemporary music. Check out Asaph Tunes website and facebook page, for the new album “In His Image.” You can support their kickstarter campaign ending in a couple of weeks!
Then God said “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26).
Growing up, I recall lightly using this verse on at least a weekly basis. Whenever someone picked on an insecurity of mine, I’d wittingly use this verse as a rebuttal. If my Sunday school teacher asked me why I had to love everyone, I’d recite this verse back to them, always taking it for its literal meaning and never delving into the depth required to truly understand such a statement. A naïve teenager, I did not understand the gravity and responsibility that comes with being in the image of a God who is, as we say in the Gregorian liturgy the unutterable, the invisible, the infinite without beginning, the eternal, the timeless, the limitless, the immeasurable, the unchangeable!
So what does it mean to be in His image? More importantly, when others see me do they see the beauty of the Lord in me? (And I’m not talking about the physical, outwards appearance that we tend to always draw towards, but the beauty that the sinner woman saw causing her to fall at his feet, the beauty that caused even the blind beggar to cry all the more for help…a beauty beyond the eyes!). I strongly believe that it is when we truly grasp this reality that, as the contemporary song says: “God dwells in me, that’s my selfie, that’s my true self”, then and there we will fall to our knees in reverence of our amazing God. As David the Prophet eloquently puts it:
“I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
There are so many privileges and responsibilities that are part of being in the image and likeness of God. A major characteristic boasted about in the Christian life is the notion of free will. That being saved through the life-giving blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I was released from the bonds and chains of sins; being able now to act through voluntary choice.
Firstly, it must be understood that it is because man was created in the image of God, who is entirely free, that we are also free through Him. We must never lose sight of this royal liberty, a right bestowed upon us as individuals in God’s image. Unfortunately, more often than not, amongst the storm of this world we forget this fundamental truth: that it is a gift given only to royalty. I’ll never forget the words a dear friend said to me once in the midst of my pains, “You are the child of a King, why are you afraid?!” Unfortunately, over the times, western culture has conditioned us away from the true meaning of freedom. The phrases, “Don’t judge me, I can do whatever I want” and “It’s a free country, I’ll do as I please” exemplify this misinterpretation.
Freedom to choose was never intended to be a scapegoat for us to do as we please, but a gift given from on high, allowing us in return to unite it with our Creator as an expression of our love. Christ knew the folly and limitations of our thinking, and we are warned that ironically our “freedom” can become our very own captivity.
as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)
The freedom that comes from being connected to the divine image was intended to give the individual their individuality, or to simply put it their uniqueness. It is because we are free, that we can express the divine image in our own distinctive, unique way.
Kallistos Ware says “within each of us there is a priceless treasure not to be found in anyone else… For each has a vocation for creating something beautiful in his or her own unrepeatable way.”
This. This is what He intended when He said “Let us make man in our image”; The freedom to express our love to Him in our own unique way.
I leave you with this question. Are you truly living free as one who is in His image?
I pray that God gives us the true freedom, which we can use to serve his glorified name, growing each day in His love.