First Mennonite Church
August 7, 2022
In the Image and Likeness of God
Text: Genesis 1:26-31
Today, I will start a short series on the theme: A Theology of the Human Body. And, please do not be offended or scared by this fancy title. Basically, what I intend to do here is to explore what the Bible says with respect of our humanity and, particularly, the humanity within God’s redemptive purposes for us in Christ. One of the fundamental truths about who we are as individuals, is that we have a body. From the body we draw our identity. Our body takes up space and resources, as my good friend Kenny says. But more importantly, it is through our body that we not only experience the world, but also God. Therefore, the theme we are about to explore has the simple goal of finding what God say about our lives in which this corporeal existence we have is a fundamental part of it.
Let us begin by setting up the ground for our study.
Read: Genesis 1:26-31
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
(Share the Mayan Mythology about the creation of humans)
This might be something you already know. The word “hurricane” comes from the Mayan name for one their principal gods—Hurakan, the god of wind and storm. So, the story goes that the Great Plumed or Feathered Snake and Hurakan wanted to create humans in order for them to worship and praise the gods. In their first attempt, the gods created mankind out of mud, but the flood destroyed the first generation of them. Next, they created man out of sticks. But besides being unable to speak, because it lack a brain, man was stiff, lacking mobility and was expressionless in its face. Thus, they could not show proper respect for their creator. These were also destroyed and those who escaped were turn into spider monkeys. Therefore, the gods sent out scouts to find a suitable material they could use to create man. As the went about, they found someone making dough out of corn/maize and they stole some of it and brought it to Feathered Snake and Hurakan. Corn dough was malleable and suitable to fashion mankind. It also explains why the Mayans engaged in agriculture and corn also became their staple food.
The creation stories in Genesis (there are two) are the confession of faith of the Hebrew people about the origins of earth and heaven, including that of mankind. It is the confession of a Creator God, whose words brought into existence the universe and whose very fingers shaped and fashioned man into his image and likeness. Genesis is the confession that our body is the visible and palpable testimony of Yahweh’s creative design. Genesis, as a confession of faith, reminds us of our creatureliness status before God. That is, we are not gods. We are finite earthlings, and yet we bear something very special: God’s likeness and image.
So, God created man and woman in his likeness and image to become stewards of his creation. Thus, mankind is not an object, but the subject. We were created to fulfill a purpose.
In this image of God that have, we have been given the capacity to seek, to forming, and to sustain relationships, with both God and our fellow human beings. Thus, we offer friendship, or get married, and participate and form communities. It is not natural for people to be anti-social. That is often the result of trauma.
These days, there are people who are losing the capacity to engage with others face to face. There is something called, “the metaverse.” It is a world in the internet. Through virtual reality, that is through a computer screen, they exist as a person in the internet. This virtual person is called an “avatar.” These people spend real money to accessorize their virtual persona in that world. They can also interact with others in that world, without ever meeting them in person.
Churches have already started doing that too. One positive aspect about such kinds of churches is that it is allowing people lacking physical mobility to find ways to interact with others, which otherwise would be impossible. them.
However, in God design we have been given a body with which we can realize the potential given to us in bearing the image and likeness of God.
You and I give concrete evidence of our friendship by being present to those we call our friends. Last week, Bud told me, he was going to visit his neighbor who was in the hospital. He had an accident. Our friends know our voices, handwriting, the way we walk, and even our smell. Through our presence we show empathy, solidarity, and bond with others. Thus, we shed tears when there is grief. We hold the hand of the other when they need support. We laugh and rejoice when the other is happy. All of these become evident through our body. Every emotion we are capable of showing is revealed physically—through our body.
With respect to God, we show reverence to God through our body posture and other nonverbal cues. We show reverence by the way we sit in the pew. We show gratitude and joy while we pray, sing God’s praises. The gaze in our eyes reveal attentiveness, as we open our hearts to God. We have the capacity and intuition to recognize God’s presence and to respond accordingly. Obedience to God does not happen in the air or spirit, but is revealed through our bodies as well. We go to church. We love our neighbors. We forgive when wronged. We show compassion. All of this takes place with and through our body.
The body is the ultimate instrument by which everything we know, both practical or intellectual is achieved and manifested. The one who has studied a craft, trade, or profession will reveal that knowledge through concrete use of their faculties and actions. In the words of the Psalmist, we are wonderfully created.
Verse 27 reads:
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Human sexuality is an integral aspect of God’s design for humanity. God created us male and female. This distinction is most evident at a bodily level. Genesis confesses that both male and female came out of God’s own hands. Females are not what Aristotle said he believed they are, “misbegotten males.” The female body is not a cultural artefact to be objectified and used as added marketing appeal, as we see today.
The context of this statement in Genesis shows that gender is not so much about functions and roles. Why is that so? Because God did not assign a particular list of tasks to the man and gave the woman a different list of tasks. The chores, tasks and stewardship obligations God gave, he gave them to both of them. Therefore, in this context, the difference in sexuality is more a designation of humanity’s capacity to carry on the role of being co-creators with God, in the newly created world. Man and woman were tasked with the care of God’s creation. The sexes were given the potential to procreate and to populate God’s world.
Today, sex is used in legal system as a “suspect category.” Today, sex is also used to discriminate against in the labor field.
After God created man and woman in his image and likeness, God affirmed that everything he had created “was very good indeed.”
As we have begun to see, the human body is the repository of Divine creativity, beauty, and purpose. Our bodies exhibit what is invisible about God, his wisdom and majesty. The body is sacred, thus we must respect it and honor God with it, as our NT text said.
Next Sunday, we will see how even God shared a body like ours in the person of his Son.
May the Lord bless our bodies with strength, health, and healing. May the Lord be glorified through the care and respect we give to our body. Amen!