I’ve written before about what it looks like to reflect the glory of God in worship toward those around us. This, to me, represents a beautiful posture of both surrender and service as we step out of ourselves and use the gifts we have been entrusted with to bring glory to the Creator and also to reflect His glory back to his creation. The great contemporary theologian Rev. N.T. Wright speaks about this vocation in terms of a two-way mirror. As we praise God, we come to him “as the representatives of the whole world,” while at the same time God’s “healing, restorative justice to creation” is also being reflected back down through us to that creation.
I love this illustration because it places us as his people in a position that is neither elevated, nor diminished. We get to live in such a way that our identity is hidden in Christ and we can be used by him to bring His hope and healing to the world and also to help facilitate praise directed back To Him, From his people as we are used in the Body according to our gifts. (Rom. 12:6-8.)
The beautiful thing about this is that it applies to all of us, no matter what gifts we have been given.
I know an artist named Sergio. He’s a painter. But not the kind of painter you immediately think of when you hear the word artist. Sergio paints houses. He has a team of painters and carpenters that work for him but his art is not the colors he chooses or the precision with which they paint houses (although I consider them in a league of their own when it come to the quality of their work.) Sergio’s art is the way that he brings HIMSELF into every job, every meeting with a client and every relationship he has. He is the type of person that immediately lights up a room when he enters it. He is always positive and encouraging and I get the sense that when he paints a house he is, in his own way, reflecting the work of his Creator. In many ways, I consider him the Michelangelo or the Mozart of his craft as he beautifully and masterfully approaches his work with discipline, integrity and joy. It is not WHAT he is doing that matters. It is truly the way in which he handles his calling that makes him an artist.
There are a lot of other Sergio’s out there that, to me, embody the heart of an image bearer. They are the type of people that complements don’t really seem to stick to. In the same way they also don’t tend to be down on themselves or self-doubting. They appear to that find their identity in the God they love.
In a culture that continuously obsesses with issues of image and self-elevation, it becomes very easy to find ourselves chasing after things that we think will give us validation or an identity in the world.
I’m a sucker for broadway musicals and, while I haven’t seen the recent smash hit “Hamilton,” it currently has a regular spot in my music playlist. One of the repeated phrases sung by the lead character, Alexander Hamilton is the line, “I am not throwing away my shot!” which becomes a theme in the story as the founding father shows a relentless determination to pursue a life of significance. I think many of us can probably relate to this feeling as we all want to find our contribution and “the thing” that we were made to do.
Jesus often compared the Kingdom of God to small things like mustard seeds or pinches of yeast. I think we like those analogies because we understand that small things can become very significant over time, given enough TLC. Personally, I love the idea of having some purpose or task that God prepared in advance for me to do like the good works Paul describes in Ephesians 2. But what if “the thing” doesn’t turn out to be a big thing at all? After all, most seeds start out about the same size and if someone handed you a mixed up bag of random seeds, you wouldn’t be able to tell which ones would end up growing into giant trees and which would produce the most insignificant shrub.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 goes into great detail about our gifts and the role we play in the Body. Paul makes the point that no part is no more important than any other and that we all serve a purpose. I’ve seen leaders of very large organizations who serve those they lead with integrity, humility and a spirit that reflects Christ in such a way that they seem to wear a sign on their forehead that screams “image bearer!” I’ve seen the same thing in people that mow lawns, wait tables and paint houses.
To be someone who emodies “Imago Dei” or is made in the Image of God means that the glory of God moves freely through us but is not our own glory. To chase significance alone misses the mysterious wonder of the Garden when God breathed his own breath into the ones that would reflect his image to all of his creation. Our “shot” at significance in this life is to approach every task set before us, no matter the size, as if it were God himself doing that work. As a son or daughter, made in His image, this is the real art that we can reflect back to His creation.