Let us Make Man in our Image

Let us make man in Our Image
Let us make man in Our Image

I do not usually make New Year’s resolutions because I never follow through on them.  I start of great but in a few shorts weeks it is gone.  Well, I hope to change that this year.  I am taking up the challenge to read the Bible in One Year.  (I will be using this scheme if you would like to join me.) I have done it before but this time I am going to take it slow and really focus on the text.  Scripture is very important in the life of the Orthodox Church, most of our Liturgical services are thick with references from Scripture.  Dare I say that in a typical Divine Liturgy on Sunday, Orthodox Christians here more Scripture than the Protestants who claim that the Bible is all they need!

So along with the reading I will be reflecting on various themes from the Scripture I am reading and I will write about it here on these pages.  It might not be everyday or even once a week, but when I come across something that is of particular interest or perhaps jumps out at me, I will reflect upon it.  I welcome your questions and your comments.  I am not a Scripture scholar only a pilgrim looking for answers.

It is logical then to start “In the beginning” with the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis.  Walter Brueggemann in the Interpretation series of Biblical Commentaries say that “The first 11 chapters of Genesis are among the most important in Scripture.”  I certainly have found this to be true.  Whilst in seminary, I took a summer class on this subject.  The class met for four hours a day for three weeks and we were supposed to get through all 11 chapters.  I cannot remember for sure, but I don’t think we made it past 5 or 6 chapters that is how much is included in these chapters.

I am zeroing in on Chapter 1 and the first part verse 26, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  The first that jumps out to me in the use of the plural “Us” and “Our.”  At a first glance, and using the language of the New King James Version, one might simply think this is regal language however, St. John Chrysostom indicates this is the Father speaking to God the Son as an indication of the distinctness of the Three Persons of the Trinity and that the Trinity existed before creation itself and was part of that creation.

But what image, if the first person and the third person of the Trinity have no human form what image is this creation to take?  Man is not one in nature with the Trinity, we see that each member of the Trinity is separate but one in nature, humanity is not part of that nature, in the sense that the others are, the dignity, and the worth of each man and woman is the image and likeness of God.

The modern world has reduced humans to things and respect for human life, all along the spectrum of that life, is not respected.  Poverty, war, hunger, murder all disrespect dignity of humanity and thus disrespects the image and likeness of God.  When humans are used as a means to an end their value is, well, devalued.  If we respect God then by extension we must respect His creation.

We see in the seven preceding creation events, air, water, sun, moon, animals, plants, etc. God says “it is very good” nothing that God creates is bad and that includes humanity.  Nothing that God made is evil in itself.  Human nature is good in itself but sin is a choice and that free choice of man to sin is contrary to both God’s nature and human nature.  People are not evil, their actions are.  Everything that God creates is good, simply put, because God is good.

The creator has a purpose for His creation and creation exists because of that purpose and because of the will of God.  The Creator did not abandon His creation but continues to address the creation.  The response of creation, humanity, is to show our faithful and of obedience to His will, His will not our will.  God does not impose His will on us it is given freely to us and we have to choose, through obedience, to accept it or turn away from it.  The sovereign rule of God is expressed by humanity through trust is His will for us and in accepting the generous invitation of God to follow Him.

Take particular note of the fact that Humanity is the only part of Creation that God actually speaks to.  This indicates that humanity is to have a much different relationship with God than any other part of His creation.  This is to be a very intimate relationship; God shows genuine care for humanity by creating a helper for it when it was alone.  This was not done for any other part of creation.  And because of this intimate relationship this is the only way that God is imaged in the world because humanity has the freedom to be faithful and generous, these are the energies of God.  He is always faithful, no matter what we do, and He is generous with His love.

Man and woman are not simply chattel and servants of God but agents of God to whom much is given but from whom much will be expected.  Humanity is not a single entity, “male and female he created them.”  We all stand alone before God but because of being created male and female we have been created as community.  None of us is the full image and likeness of God on our own, only in community can the image and likeness of God be reflected, God is not individual but communion, we need each other!

I will end this reflection with a quote from Walter Brueggemann about the nature of creation itself. “Creation is God’s decision not to look after Himself but to focus his energies and purposes on the creation.”

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