Image Bearers

I was thinking today about what fragile, messed-up people we are. We rightly speak of the wonder of each human being, and our unique status of being made in the image of God, but maybe we do not always grasp just how little the shattered pieces that are us resemble what a person was really meant to be—never mind what we will be one day, when Jesus makes us new.

We’re many weary miles away from being what a human being actually should be—we with our balding and our flab and our spots, with our easily-fuddled brains, with the amount we don’t know even about the things we know most about, with our short tempers and long-held grudges, with the friction in our relationships and the fears that bury deep within us, with our skeletoned closets and our favourite sins.

There’s a breath-taking passage in Perelandra which describes Ransom’s reaction at seeing the King and Queen of Perelandra—an unfallen man and woman in a sinless world.

“There was a great silence on the mountain top and Ransom also had fallen down before the human pair. When at last he raised his eyes from the four blessed feet, he found himself involuntarily speaking though his voice was broken and his eyes dimmed. ‘Do not move away, do not raise me up,’ he said. ‘I have never before seen a man or a woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images. Oh, my Father and my Mother, my Lord and my Lady, do not move, do not answer me yet. My own father and mother I have never seen. Take me for your son. We have been alone in my world for a great time.’

The eyes of the Queen looked upon him with love and recognition, but it was not of the Queen that he thought most. It was hard to think of anything but the King. And how shall I—I who have not seen him—tell you what he was like? It was hard even for Ransom to tell me of the King’s face. But we dare not withhold the truth. It was that face which no man can say he does not know. You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. For the resemblance was, in its own fashion, infinite, so that almost you could wonder at finding no sorrows in his brow and no wounds in his hands and feet. Yet there was no danger of mistaking, not one moment of confusion, no least sally of the will towards forbidden reverence. Where likeness was greatest, mistake was least possible…. [H]ere, where His live image, like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depth of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom’s eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image. Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium.”

We fell so deeply back with Adam and Eve. We smashed hard when we landed. But one day, in and through Christ, we will be what human beings are meant to be. We’ll still be light years away from what Christ is—never more than reflections of His divine glory—but we wouldn’t want to be anything else. To be truly His image will be enough, and more than enough. What happy reflections we will be! What a beautiful hope to carry as we stumble along with the burdens of our own sins and sorrows and the burdens of those we love.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18)

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