In Common: Striking Resemblance
Topic: Unity in Christ Scripture: Genesis 1:26–1:31
One of the realities of becoming a parent is realizing that you now have smaller human reflections of yourself that you get to love and learn about every day from that moment on. When both of my boys were born, there was one question that almost everyone eventually ended up asking me or Caitlin, “Who do you think he most looks like?” I’m fairly certain this is an occurrence for every parent. When our children are at their smallest, we already begin looking for the ways they resemble their parents. “He has her nose.” “She has your eyes.” Or in my case, “Thank goodness he takes after his mom.”
In all seriousness, I think every parent can admit they want to be told that others can see something of themselves in their kids. It’s not a pride thing, I don’t think, because we really had no say or effort in deciding the shape of our child’s eyes or even what color their hair is. And I certainly don’t think it’s out of insecurity on the parents’ part. It’s something different than all that. It brings us a sense of joy and gratitude, humility even. It reminds us, assures us, of a connection we have with another person. And that truth fosters roots and feelings that go far deeper and stronger than I think any parent can anticipate.
I truly believe connection is something we need right now. Not only here in this place but more widely as a community and society. As this world continues to wrestle with divisive and personal issues, and especially as we get closer and closer to the coming presidential election, there are a bounty of avenues and opportunities for us to be divided. Instead, I want us to be reminded of what we all have In Common. And that’s what this short two-week series is going to be all about. And to uncover those truths, we’re going back to the beginning. The very beginning. I want us to explore two of the earliest chapters of the book of Genesis, and by doing so, I hope we can see just how much alike we truly are. we begin this morning in Genesis 1:26-31.
As I said, we’re going back to the beginning. By the time we come into our text, God has already formed the entirety of creation. From pools of water to celestial bodies, our Creator has given shape to the universe as we know it. And what’s interesting is, after God brought forth each progression of the intricate masterpiece that is creation, a declaration was made by the heavenly artist. After the first exposure of light, after the formation of the first cloud, after the first seed broke soil and reached for the sky, after the first constellation of stars was given their pattern, after the first creatures swam or flew or galloped or crawled, after it all…God said the same thing. That it was good. But despite forming a breath-taking and astonishing creation of both microscopic and galactic proportions, the unity of the Godhead knew the work of creation was not complete, the purpose was not fulfilled. And that’s when the Almighty fostered the most unique and personal expression of the Divinity’s creative power. Humanity.
The blueprint? It was God’s very image and likeness. No other aspect or creature in all the known cosmos can claim to bear the same Striking Resemblance that we do to the Lord of all. Like a child who holds the features of a parent, so too do we bear the mark and majesty of our Creator. Humanity was then given a task of participation and a blessing of abundance. Those who bear that Striking Resemblance to God was and are called upon to care for the creation they inhabited, to be its stewards, guardians, and its curators. And, for the first time, with humanity now fixed within the fabric of creation, our Heavenly Parent declared this new creation very good.
And here is what should be one of the most unifying, humbling, and inspiring truths shared by each and every human being: we all bear a Striking Resemblance to our Creator. It’s one of the few things we can say that every person has In Common. All the unique differences we notice between even only two people are not proof against this commonality. Instead, it is a declaration of just how vast and infinite our God is. The omnipresent God is present in every human life. The omniscient God can be known in every human life. The omnipotent God’s power is put on full display in every human life. But, sadly, this is something our race has forgotten, and honestly, tends to forget frequently in our own driven pursuits.
When we forget or forsake the divine image that we all have In Common, the most heinous and vile malignancies are formed. Racism, nationalism, sexism, hatred, denigration, abuse, violence… all of these are, in some way, the result of forgetting or forsaking the Striking Resemblance every human person bears with our God. This forgetting or forsaking is what drives otherwise decent people to become silent in the face of prejudice or fascism. It is what inflates one’s belief that a product or platform is more valuable than people. It was what urged the voices of the crowd to cry out against Jesus and shout, “Crucify him!” Most importantly, it is one of the most insidious and evil lies we can be told or believe.
And the painful truth is that it is almost a near certainty that each and every one of us has been affected by an occurrence of this malignancy in some way. We have all been teased before, but I’m talking about something more than that, though I don’t take lightly what can be intended as gentle teasing from one person can feel like painful hazing to another. What I mean is - those moments where another person has made an intentional effort to lower us before them or another person or group of people. The offender might have used any number of the aspects of our identity to chip away at the God-given sense of value we inherently possess. Our age, our appearance, our past, our upbringing, our financial status, or even our clothing. Bullying is a real and ever-present evil in this world and we’re fooling ourselves if we think it is a practice found only within cul-de-sacs and school hallways.
In my time discipling and encouraging students as a youth worker, I had far too many teenagers tell me about their own brittle and cracked sense of self-worth because of the words or actions of another. A seventh-grade boy who was called a freak every day by the same group of kids because he was quiet and because his hair was long. A ninth-grade girl who broke down in tears with me and another leader because her mom had told her, “Honey, you’d be so beautiful if you got rid of some of that baby fat.” I heard it in other spaces too. When I was in college training to become a youth worker, I was surrounded by women who were brilliant, passionate, inspiring, and gifted. So gifted. And many of them shared how, at one point or another, they were told by someone in their church or another church that because they were a woman that they were not biblically qualified to lead. I am heart-broken by those stories. The ones I heard in college, in seminary, even in our community of Bloomington-Normal. But I have not been immune to this either.
When I was working at a Christian kids camp the summer between my senior year of high school and my first year of college, I worked with a group of fun and dedicated counselors. In fact, many of them were also going to school or planning to go to school for some sort of ministry career. I’ll never forget what one of them said to me. His name was Rob and he too was considering a career in ministry. He told me that because of my weight that I wouldn’t be able to be a successful youth pastor. It was a hideous and repulsive thing to say. And I might not be proud of the fact anymore, but every time I shared something about the ministry God had called me to at Highland, I hoped Rob would hear about it.
Even now, at the present time, efforts are being made to deny the quality and worth of other people. The ways in which this is happening are both heinous and common, terrifying and casual. And, friends, here’s what I want. I want to be able to thank God that no one within this family of faith can be accused of such a thing. It is my prayer that we would be able to remember and celebrate what it is we have In Common with the other people of this world. It is my prayer that not a word of gossip would come out of this community. It is my prayer that our coffee shop conversations and our social media pages would be saturated with uplifting words and not insults or shots fired at another person’s story. In a society that compels to seek out and broadcast what we think is wrong with someone else, we have the opportunity to be people that speak value and decency into this world. And I don’t merely wish this so that we claim some sort of victory. No, I want each and every one of us to stand as an example of what Christ looks like in this world so that others might witness that difference and be inspired.
And I want to finish with this: a reminder to each and every one of you, and really, to myself as well. You are valuable. You are loved. You have a purpose. You possess a Striking Resemblance to the same One who made the stars in all their brilliance and the oceans in all their power. It’s funny, the Hebrew word for “good” that we find in this first chapter of Genesis has another translation that is used almost as much as good. It’s beautiful. God looked at humanity and declared us very beautiful. That’s you, each and every one. No matter what others have said or led you to believe. No matter what the dark voice within you whispers. No matter what mistakes have been made or what things have been left undone. You are beautiful. You are good. Very good.
And so is the person sitting next to you, the person who lives down the street, that person who cut you off on your way to work, and the person who is on the other side of whatever issue you believe is most important. Whether it’s someone we love, someone we avoid, someone who inspires us, or someone who angers us. We all have a few things In Common. And the first and most important of those realities is that every human being is made in the image of God and bears that Striking Resemblance.
More in In Common
February 16, 2020In Common: Grading On A Curve