The idea that God is making us “into the image of Christ” has always sat weirdly with me, and I’ve never fully understood exactly what my problem is with that concept. Or more directly, the idea that “when God looks at me, He doesn’t see me, He sees His Son…” In some ways that I cannot fully articulate, that just doesn’t sit completely well with me.
I think God looks at me – and sees ME! He knows the number of my days (Job 14:5) and the hairs on my head (Luke 12:7)! Psalm 139:16-18 says that His thoughts about me outnumber the grains of sand! Paul writes about God knowing – even choosing – us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4)!
Also, one of the primary arguments in favor of free will is that God was not interested in creating an army of robots programmed to love Him. He created us with the gift of choice, and in doing so, He limited His own power over us (to a degree) to allow us the freedom to love Him back (or not).
If God’s whole goal was just to make me and everyone else “just like Jesus”, then He could’ve just skipped all this creation, garden, Fall, separation, and redeeming business and just made billions of perfect, sinless sons and daughters who always and only honored His will and His ways and reflected His nature and character perfectly all the time.
The fact that He made so many individuals who exhibit so many varying uniquenesses makes me think that He is interested in more than just having us all return to the state and image of the Prototype…
Is what I’m saying making sense? Am I way off base? (Please do add your comments below – I need to the input of other believers to help inform me on this one!)
The way I interpret the “just like Jesus” language is this: if God is making me into the ‘image of Christ’, a synonym of ‘image’ would be ‘likeness’. Thus, God is forming me into the likeness of Christ – that I might resemble Him or be like Him.
The moon is not a replica of the sun, but it reflects the sun’s glory upon the earth.
Another way to think about this is to use a word like ‘character’ or ‘nature’. God is forming in me the character of Christ. He is molding and shaping me to take on Christ’s nature. I’m still me, but through God’s gracious transformative work in my life, I am starting to think, act, speak, smell, feel, and be like Jesus. Not a clone of Jesus, but as a uniquely-faceted expression of Jesus’ personality and character, uniquely formed in who I was originally designed to be as an individual.
None of us can express the nature of God fully – even all of us together cannot replicate God completely! We are each, in our perfected state, an individual expression of His infinite creativity.
I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. He said,
The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of “little Christs,” all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented – as an author invents characters in a novel – all the different men that you and I were intended to be.
In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to “be myself” without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call “me” can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.1
This all may feel a little academic… and I can’t fully articulate it… but I think as we become more like Christ, we don’t just dissolve into a carbon copy of Jesus… I think we somehow become more fully and completely and perfectly who He intended us – individually and specifically – to be.
I’d love to hear y’all’s feedback on this one!
1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperOne, 2012), 262.
For me, to become a carbon copy of Christ would be the highest honor b/c of who he showed himself to be, altogether lovely, selfless and totally humble though he was/is a king.
First, and perhaps least importantly, I love your correct spelling of the most excellent word, “y’all’s”.
Secondly, this may not make any sense, but as I read your post, I was reminded of how sometimes women become more lovely once they fall in love with their husband to be. Someone who was once pretty becomes beautiful, once showered in pure affection and the knowledge of being chosen. Then after she marries, and becomes intimately known and cherished, she is gorgeous. Even later still, when she has the gift of proven trust following decades of living together in deep relationship- she is simply radiant. It is obvious she possesses great wisdom, deep joy, real peace. It is still possible to see the girl she once was, but she is so much more now. (For example, while I haven’t known her throughout her life, I do know that DeeDee Stephens is the example of radiantly beautiful that came to mind as I read your post).
Wow – yes! – so beautifully explained, Molly! The progression you described of the completely adored and valued bride becoming her more radiant and valued self over time… I love it! And what better example of that could there be than the beautiful life and example of the amazing Dee Dee Stephens?!
Fantastic feedback, Molly – thank you so much!
You are welcome- thank you for another excellent portion of food for thought!