Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On The Gospel - The Image Or Character of God II

Israel was intended to be the image of her God in the world, the bearer of blessing and good news for all the nations. Her history with YHWH was at best an inconsistent witness to this image. The Law, the leading of YHWH, His protection and blessing of Israel was not for her alone, but as a witness to the entire world of what faithful discipleship to YHWH could mean for every country.

Every country, every nation could be caught up in the gracious mercy and blessings of YHWH if they would simply heed what Israel was supposed to have demonstrated - what she was supposed to have become. Israel was to be the very embodiment of YHWH and as such become a priest for the world until the world itself could become one with YHWH.

Being the image of YHWH wasn't a secret; we are told in Genesis that YHWH made Man(kind) in His image. There have been various ideas about what being the image of YHWH means, including being spirit beings or having souls; being able to use logic and critical thinking; to have an independent and effective will; and even being creative beings. All of these miss the mark, but that last comes closest to the implication of being an image of YHWH. To be the image of the Creator God is to be imbued with the same character, the same values, the same drives as the Creator.

The character of God is revealed repeatedly in the Jewish Scriptures and is again revealed in the Christian Scriptures as well. Perhaps the greatest characteristic of God is Love. This love causes graciousness, mercy, and believe it or not, humility to be manifested by YHWH. It is these same characteristics expected of Israel. YHWH is also faithful and so was Israel supposed to be. To be a creator implies the giving of oneself; one's energy, one's creative process, one's blessing if you will to the thing created. Love, or giving of self for another is the primary characteristic of YHWH and it is in this character aspect that we come to understand what it means to be the image of the Giver of Life.

But YHWH is not always loving, patient, and gracious toward Israel or any other nation for that matter. Certainly the character of YHWH also includes anger, vengeance, and violence toward even those He uses to accomplish His purposes. We cannot avoid admitting that yes, it does seem that this God of Israel's is not always depicted as we have described Him, as Love. Isaiah gives us some insight into this seeming dichotomy when it is revealed that YHWH uses punishment that fits the crime to discipline Israel and other nations. This discipline is intended to bring her and them back to YHWH if they would but see that life with Him would be so much better.

It is this better life that YHWH wants to give all nations; all the people on the planet. He has made not only Israel from nothing, but the world itself, including all other nations. He is the crafter of existence and from the beginning of Man(kind) His intent has been to bless, to nurture, to shape all people and all peoples into the very likeness that His image points toward.

This alignment of image with the character of YHWH is the underlying reality of the fruit of the Spirit. Why does living with YHWH result in these things listed in Galatians 5, if not because they represent the character and image of YHWH and therefore the core, inherent character of all persons. This is what YHWH meant when He dared make Man(kind) in His image; He would make creatures that carried His character and then grow most fully into that image. As Paul says, we become the likeness of Christ who has demonstrated nothing if not the characteristics reminiscent of the fruit of the Spirit, leading us (back) toward our very Creator's character and the full blossoming of what lies inside ourselves.

The image of YHWH then is not about being spirit, not about being able to think logically, not any of those other things primarily although aspects of the image may indeed match those ideas. Rather to be made in the image of YHWH is to carry within ourselves the character of our God; He who created the entire race out of nothing. If we can say that YHWH is Love, then we can say our make up and our calling also is to be Love as expressed through the fruit of the Spirit and similar attributes. If Israel's calling was to remain faithful and embody the life lived with YHWH, so too is the calling of every person.

That with which YHWH began - the mutual nurturing of Man(kind) with one another and the rest of creation - remains the goal. The ultimate purpose is to return all peoples and all persons to YHWH as faithful vessels who live the very sort of Love as does YHWH. This planet is not exile; it is not punishment to live this life. Living a YHWH-life on this planet is precisely why you are here. We are not "just passing through," but rather placed here intentionally to enjoy the best life possible and entice others to that same life.

The character of God then is Love in its fullest and deepest manifestation. This Love was demonstrated by the loving faithfulness of YHWH toward Israel even when she did not deserve it, and it was demonstrated in the life of Jesus. Micah tells us that YHWH wants His creatures to act justly and love mercy; and remain faithful to Him. Nothing has changed about that expectation. That is the expectation not because YHWH has arbitrarily decreed that it should be, but because that is precisely how YHWH made you to be.

Next: On the Gospel - Love

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