The Image Of God Is Not Male Plus Female

Many of you may remember the movie Jerry Maguire.  In it Jerry is a sports agent and his assistant Dorothy falls in love with him.  Jerry at first loves her but isn’t what one might call “in love” with her.**  But at the end, Jerry realizes that he and Dorothy belong together.  He goes to her and says, “You complete me.”  They live happily ever after.

Now from a theological standpoint, there’s all sorts of things wrong here.  As I’ve mentioned over and over here, what we often do in Christian culture is just take secular beliefs and dress them up into Christian ones.  For example we take the romantic idea of the one, dress it up and turn it into the “one God has for us.”  These examples go on and on.

But today I want to talk about the idea of two people completing each other.  We talk about this all the time. Many times we hear how a person couldn’t be who they are without their spouse.  We talk about how a person couldn’t do the ministry work they do without their spouse.  

Often times when we talk about male and female differences complementing each other we sort of send a message that the two together better reflect the image of God.  In other words God created men and women in his image and it is the two of them together that that more fully image God.

This can be taken to another level when we talk about people in general.  There is the sense, sometimes implicitly said and other times inferred, that only as a whole does mankind represent the image of God.

All of this is wrong theologically speaking.  It’s not a biblical way of looking at it.

Now I understand that part of this is a movement to push back on the over individualism of western evangelical thought on salvation and other things.  I get that.  But this is not the right way to push back.  It only leads to confusion.  So lets straighten this out.

In Genesis it says that God created mankind in his image.  Male and female He created them.  Let’s sort of break down this truth.

First of all it does not say that God created each human with part of the image of God.  The idea is instead that each of us, male and female, is uniquely created in the image of God.  I don’t need another person to have more of the image of God.  I am already created in His image, all by myself.

Image here is, in a sense, both a noun and a verb.  Meaning that it’s what I am (created in His image) and what I’m created to do (represent His image on the earth). So that’s pretty amazing.  Now in the scripture it takes only one chapter for us to mess this all up.  We break the image.  We are all a broken image of Him.  However we are still created in His image.

You can test this out for yourself.  What’s the best thing anyone has ever said about you?  Perhaps that you are: beautiful, faithful, loving, trustworthy, strong, truthful, wise, a good listener, or patient.  I could give endless examples.  But whatever it is, it reflects a part of God.  Now we are not God.  We are wise, but not all knowing. We are just but not perfectly so, etc.

The incarnation actually affirms this.  The only way that Jesus can come as a human is if the human is created in the image of God.  Jesus is of course the perfect image of God and the perfect human.

What this means is that each person is created in God’s image without anyone else.  Now be careful here.  We are not the perfect image of God.  God is God and we are not.  But God’s image is not the sum of two people male and female.  In fact God’s image is not the sum of all people together.  Even if you add us all up we don’t equal God’s image.

I think where some of the confusion in our current conversations come from is that we are confusing the image of God with the Body of Christ.  You alone are not the Body of Christ.  The sum of all of us equals that.  We are together, with all of our cultures, nations, differences, etc, the Body of Christ.  Amen.  But that is a different theological truth.

This distinction matters.  It matters for singles because as an unmarried person I do not need another person to complete me.  In fact, it is impossible for another person to complete me.  If I’m male, I don’t just carry the “male” part of God and therefore need a female to image that part of God.  I am complete in Christ.  I am not the complete Body of Christ.

It follows then that the nuclear family is supposed to be a small example of the Body of Christ.  But it’s not a picture of the image of God.  Each person is a picture of that.

This matters as a mindset.  It matters as an unmarried person because if I seek a spouse I’m not doing so to become complete.  I’m doing so to represent the Body.  This changes the whole purpose.  It changes how we view ourselves and others.  It changes why we marry and perhaps raise kids.  It means that if I never marry I’m still complete in Christ.

It may seem like a small distinction but it carries a large impact on how I view myself, marriage and God.

 

** I’ll reference this idea in another post soon about in love vs. love and the expectations of marriage.

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