Christ, the True Image of God

God reveals himself in Christ’s humanity, the Word of God through whom all things were made and by whose life and death is revealed the wholeness of God’s presence. He is the true image of the Father

(Jn. 1:1-5). Theologians fashionably talk of Christ as if that were possible without “standing on secure doctrinal ground concerning God” (Turner, 2013, p. 100). I have tried to avoid that here. In one sense, there is nothing “new” in Christ; he reveals the true nature of creation and embodies the authoritativeness of God’s power in the world by his unassertiveness. His life, teaching, example, Crucifixion, death, Resurrection, and ascension confirm that God’s love for his creation will never be withdrawn: He is really present, immovable. He always has been, is, and will be. His love is offered unconditionally without prejudice, though what is meant by unconditionality needs to be carefully attended to, for it calls us to follow the painful, self-giving example of Christ and focus our selves upon loving God for his sake, not for what we can get out of it.

Those who recognize this enter into the divinely given freedom of Christ, and even as they try to understand what it means to be obedient, they are able to love creation and all other creatures without fear through giving themselves to its flourishing. This is what it means to be made in the image of God. Each human being is capable of becoming a self who, through coming to know the intimacy of the love that God has for creation, is able to be a member of the Body of Christ and partner with God in caring for his world. It is vital to keep in mind that this is true of all people, not simply those who call themselves Christians; there is no limit to God’s loving authoritativeness or therefore to the potential self-giving love of which humankind is capable (Gen. 1:27; Gal. 3:27-29; Rev. 21:1-4). In all circumstances, we can be the selves we truly are because we know that we belong to the creation of the loving God who will not abandon us to our own devices.

I previously alluded to the importance of habit in forming good dispositions of behavior. Jesus taught his disciples to pray regularly with him the Our Father. The fact that Christ asks his disciples to pray with him his prayer to his and their Father reminds them of the capacity they have to act in the image of God with the freedom to give themselves to the “other” without regard for reward. In fact, they can be real human beings.

The central claim of Christian anthropology is that the entity that is the human “self” is characterized by an open relationship with the world, with other people, and above all, with God, in whose image the human being is created. The Christian concept of the self is real only insofar as it takes its reality from its relationship with God.

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