Focus – In the Image of God
by Lt. Amanda Reardon –
The front yard was foreboding–heaped with trash, littered with broken, rusted cars, overgrown with thorny bushes–and I had heard the rumors about the activities taking place within and without the small house. But, upon invitation, I stepped inside. I stood in a dark little living room with a big television and three dirty love seats. Sprawled on the floor and across the love seats were six people–all adults–clearly under the influence of something. They all lay there, not moving, with glazed-over eyes. They had matted hair and their skin was filthy. They were young, yet their faces were sallow. Not one lifted his eyes to look my way, nor did they look at each other. My head began to pulsate with one thought: “What happened to the image of God in these people?”
Anyone who truly knows God knows that he is beautiful. Everything about him is so appealing and so good that it draws us to him. And Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NRSV)
Being human was supposed to be something beautiful, too. We were meant to resemble God. We were to be clear-thinking, selfless, healthy, whole. Though we would never be divine, our original blueprint included godly characteristics.
But because Satan is forever unable to mar the character of God, he takes particular delight in doing the next best thing–disfiguring God’s image in mankind. That disfiguration is what smacked me in the face when I visited that little house. Thanks to chemical addiction, the people there seemed to possess none of the potential dignity involved in being a member of the human race. When Satan can obscure that dignity, he has succeeded in making a mockery of the image of God.
But even as Satan wraps his bony fingers around the necks of his victims, squeezing the last drops of human dignity from their spirits, our Savior can intervene and pry those fingers open. I am very familiar with one such case.
A friend of mine was also chemically dependent, and his life was in a tailspin. But something he read in a War Cry broke through and melted his heart. He tells me that he fell into sobs and gave his life to Christ as a result of what he read in that periodical. That commitment prompted him to get help at a Salvation Army rehabilitation center. In time, the image of God became clearer and clearer in him. Now this man is a true reflection of the Lord he loves. He is warm and giving, committed and trustworthy. But that’s no big surprise. After all, II Corinthians 5:17 tells us: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Old things have passed away; all things have become new! What wonderful words of hope are these! Christ came to heal and reshape mankind. But he makes us new individually, restoring God’s image only in those who let him. He changed my friend because my friend wanted to be changed.
Of course, it is not only addicts who need to be made new. Original sin discolored God’s reflection in each of us the moment we entered this world. After that, we chose which sins would further blur that reflection. Not all of us are guilty of the same sins, but they all carry the same weight and they all cause us to look less and less like God. However the damage was done, only the Creator can re-create his creation. He alone can restore dignity to humanity, and he does it one life at a time.
I wish I could explain all of this to the six people in that little house. I pray that God will present me with the opportunity to do that somehow. But for the time being, perhaps it will be enough if they can see the image of God in me.