This is a topic I wrote about in relation to gender and my thoughts while reading ‘Half the Church,’ by Carolyn Custis James in Part 2 (Image Bearing) and Part 3 (the Trinity). But it’s such an interesting topic that I felt I could write a whole other post on it.
The Trinity. If you’re vague on theological terminology or need a reminder, the Trinity is the concept that God as God exists in three separate parts (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) that are also one being and inseparable from each other. It’s a paradox, it’s complicated and people far smarter than me struggle to explain it so I won’t try. For now, let’s accept the paradox and embrace the unique nature of our God and explore what is means for us in our ‘image bearing’ in his world.
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. – Genesis 1:26-7 (NIV).
We were created in God’s image, to reflect his nature, his likeness, his qualities: his essence. We were to be all that God is and nothing that he isn’t: we were to rule his world, the world he created for us, in his place, as his representatives. We were to be blessed caretakers who would never lack for anything.
Well that didn’t quite work out. If you’re familiar with the bible story you will know that when humanity was tempted by the false promise of more, it didn’t resist for long. When it turned out the promise was false (of course it was false – who can offer anything but God? What more could humanity be given when God had given them everything?) we hid from God in shame. We had forfeited the right to represent him.
Let’s skip ahead through the story to the cross. The cross is where everything that went wrong in the beginning was made right. God, three in one, used his nature to save us. The Son, Jesus came to earth as fully God and fully man (another paradox – for another day). He submitted to the Father’s will and at the cross he took the price for our shame and he restored us as image bearers and children of God. Then the Father stepped in and raised Jesus to life – proving not even death is too much for God to handle. Jesus left the earth and his friends with the promise of the Spirit – the presence of God with us here on earth and in our hearts. Then he gave God’s representatives a new command.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
We are called to make image bearers, representatives of God. We are called to show God’s likeness in the world, to show people from all nations and all places who God is and what he is life.
On our own though, we can’t. How can we reflect a threefold God individually? How can we show the constant self-sacrificing and relationships dynamics of the Trinity on our own? We can’t.
When we live out God’s image in relationships and community with each other though, we can. When we constantly self sacrifice and give up and put ourselves last for the people in our church and our lives, we can. When we practice mutual submission – giving up our rights because we know each person in our community will also give up their rights for us – we can.
The Trinity is a mutual, giving, sacrificial force. When we love and serve each other we can fully reflect the nature of God. When we try to live life on our own or maintain our faith on our own, we can’t reflect God truly or do his amazingly complex nature justice.