God's Image-Bearers: Accepting No Other Remakes
Oct 13, 2019 05:55AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Recently some of us went through a bit of a friend upheaval. It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last. Friendships shift and change, right? They may be seasonal, or they make take a break. I get it.
Social sorting, while at its highest perhaps in middle school, is a healthy process. We figure it out as we go. And so many times, a friendship that pushed the pause button returns to healthy functioning a year or so later.
So, as we go through this in our house, there are several questions we ask each other:
- What did you learn from this?
- What did you like about this friendship, and what did you find unhealthy about it?
- Where did you nurture the friendship, and where could you have done better?
- Was this person open to building understanding?
- Was he or she an active listener?
- Was the friend humble, or was he or she always right?
- Was there openness to change?
- Was the friend committed to you or just to what he or she could get from you?
- And lastly: Did this friend love you for you, or did he or she insist you behaved a certain way or shared his or her interests only? Did this friend show interest in what mattered to you?
This last one in particular struck me as we processed through this.
A real friend doesn’t try to make you into their own image. They accept that you are unique and made in God’s (image).
Can you say that to yourself a few times?
You are uniquely made in God’s image. And as one of His image-bearers, you bring your own special flair to the table. If you try to adopt someone else’s image, you are not offering the world the full you that He created.
If someone takes control in a relationship of what you do, what your interests are, what you are allowed to talk about, etc., it is a relationship of one. You may as well not even be there.
Jonathan and David were famous friends in the Old Testament. Jonathan was royalty, and David was the poor shepherd boy who was commissioned to play music for and to fight battles for King Saul. He was God’s choice to be the next king, even though technically Jonathan was in line as the king’s son.
1 Samuel 18:1, ESV
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
1 Samuel 18:3-5, ESV
Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants.
At one point, their friendship went so far as Jonathan helping David escape from the murderous wrath of King Saul, who had grown very resentful and jealous of David.
1 Samuel 19:1-5, ESV
And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, "Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself.And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you. And if I learn anything I will tell you." And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the LORD worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?"
Had Jonathan forced David to conform to his family’s very dysfunctional way of relating, David would have died at the hands of Saul. Had David insisted Jonathan leave his family, God’s plan would not have carried out. Because Jonathan did not forsake his father, he was able to warn David when he needed to. God knit that friendship together to protect David.
1 Samuel 20:42, ESV
Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.'" And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.
Had either one of them conformed to the other’s role or personality, would David have ascended to the throne and left the legacy he did for the Jewish people?
And even more…would the Savior, Jesus, have come from his family line?
Taking this a step further, if you have to dress, worship God, pray, or even love God a certain way, to be in church, for example, someone is remaking you into their own image.
If you have to clean up your act before you can enter the door of the sanctuary, you are only pleasing man. God knows your struggle. He wants the real you to come honestly—just as you are. He wants to change you, and what is more, He wants to be glorified as you reflect His image more and more to those around you.
Whether our sins are visible or not to others, we all enter our communities of faith broken, sinful, and in-process. Any righteousness we have comes from God and our trust in what His Son Jesus did for us on the cross.
1 Corinthians 5:21, ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And that means any righteousness any of us have comes only by God. We didn’t earn it, and we didn’t work ourselves into it.
The Bible says we are individual parts of one Body.
1 Corinthians 12:27-30, ESV
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
If, as image-bearers, the one with the gift to teach is forced to sing, the Body of Christ misses the full blessing of the teaching God intended for us.
It’s true of professions, right? We can’t take the heavy machinery operator and insist he starts delivering mail or solving software glitches.
So, I submit to you that who we are is up to God. He created the material, and He will shape it into His great design as He sees fit, when we submit ourselves to His leading.
If anyone is telling us that we have to be other than whom God made us to be in order to be their friend, sit in their pew, or serve God with our talents, we need to remind them graciously that the only image we need bear is that of Christ.
And when we let Him show us that reflection, it is a transforming experience, one in which He draws each of our unique images into His greater plan and purposes.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
A new lionhead rabbit breeder, you can follow her buck Cloud, doe Sookie, and their kits @thegivingrabbitry on Instagram.