Who are you? How would you describe yourself?
When I finally finished seminary after almost two decades as a student, those first six months became a season where I finally found myself with “free time,” and I had no idea what to do with it. Stripped of the role of student, I found myself questioning who I am and what I like to do. Normally, I would have said that I enjoy reading, but after a semester of reading and writing research papers (I wrote 38 papers my final semester of grad school), I needed a break from the one hobby I would have claimed.
Some friends at that same age/stage of life began joking about having a “quarter-life crisis,” and while my first world problem of how to use my free time was in no way a crisis, I did have to evaluate myself and my life that semester.
Normally, we describe ourselves by what we do or who we’re in relationship with, and you’ll notice that men (and singles) typically respond with what they do while most married women or mothers will tell you about their family. While this reveals much about their role, it still doesn’t answer the question “Who are you?”
As we begin this new blog series on Calling and Contentment, we must start with a conversation on identity because this subject informs everything that we will be posting during the month of May. We have to understand God’s design – who He is and who He has made us to be – and align our lives with His design in order to understand His calling on our lives and to be content in Him. So let me ask you again, who are you?
Genesis 1:27 declares that God created man and woman in His image. Whether or not someone is a Christ-follower, they are an image-bearer. Being made in the image of God does not necessarily mean that we look like Him as children look like their parents. Instead, it means that we reflect Him and represent Him.
We Reflect God
We reflect God in that we have intellectual capacity and moral understanding, we’re relational beings, and we will live forever (either with Him or apart from Him), and we all reflect Him in unique ways because of our different callings, gifts, and talents. However, our value and our worth stem from being made in His image. It is not based on what we can do, what we look like, who we know, or what we have.
A few years ago, I studied abroad in India for a Jan Term, and while there, I saw what it looks like to base people’s value on such things. I saw it in the caste system (while legally abolished, it’s socially still present). I saw it in how I was treated because of what people wanted from me as a “rich American” or as an English speaker. I saw it in how nobody looked at the beggars on the streets. And we do the same thing here in America and around the world. At the root, racism, sexism, prejudice, abortion, euthanasia, trafficking, human slavery, infanticide, perfectionism, comparison, insecurity, and being a workaholic all link to basing our value or the value of others on something other than the fact that we are made in God’s image.
Ultimately, our identity is wrapped up in what we worship, and if we make anything more important than God, it will lead us to trample on others and to harm ourselves. As C.S. Lewis states in “The Weight of Glory,” “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cutlures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is with immortals whom we joke with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
How do you view yourself? Does your treatment of yourself reflect that you understand that you are made in God’s image and are loved by God?
How do you treat the people around you? What does this say about your understanding of their value? How can you say you love God if you do not love the people – all of the people – whom He has made (1 Jn. 4:7-8, 11)?
We Represent God
As image-bearers, we reflect God, but we also represent Him on earth. In the ancient near east (way before television and Internet), kings would have statues of themselves made and set up throughout their empire (we see an example of this in Daniel 3 with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), and these statues reminded the king’s subjects of who ruled over them. As the Creator of the universe, God sovereignly rules over all things, and He has filled the earth with His image. Each man and woman points to the true King of the earth.
When God made Adam and Eve (the first man and the first woman), He commanded them to “’Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over it’” (Gen. 1:28). God gave them authority as vice-regents to protect the earth from potential threats (which they failed to do in Genesis 3), to care for creation, and to fill the world with His image. With regards to this last one, we can do this whether married or single, for whether or not we have biological children, God calls every Christ-follower to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). We can all be spiritual parents.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, humanity remained image-bearers, but sin marred the image because humanity lost its original righteousness. It would be as though someone threw paint on the Mona Lisa; the portrait would still exist but would be stained. But for those who are saved, God looks at us with the righteousness of Christ, and when we die and enter eternity with God, there will be no more sin. We will perfectly reflect and represent Him forevermore.
God chose to create men and women, for both genders reflect something completely distinct about God’s image. This means that God greatly loves and values every person who ever has or ever will live. It means that He greatly loves and values you. No matter what happens in your life, neither age nor circumstance will change your identity as an image-bearer. He made you just the way you are.
Click here to read part 2!