imago Dei is a Latin term meaning "image" or "imprint" of God. It's one of the weird things we often do as the church. We coin or adopt fancy phrases in dead languages to describe something that makes every bit as much sense (or more) to us in our native tongue. A preacher (like myself) when preaching about identity in Christ might say something like, "we are all made in the imago dei… in the image of God…" I don't know why. Maybe it just makes us feel smarter. Anyway, my point in bringing it up is not really to point fingers or poke fun at the strange things we do in the church — although we do some pretty strange and silly things at times. I bring it up, however, because lately I have been challenged by what it means to be made, "in the image of God." The whole idea comes from the very first chapter of the Bible — Genesis 1:27. It says, "So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." When we think of being created in the image of someone, for many of us we picture staring in the mirror we can see features that we share in common. When I look ar my son I see that he has his mother's eyes… except they get squinty like mine when he laughs. Looking at his physical features, there is no mistaking that I am Zachary's dad and Michelle is his mom. imago Dei (See, there I go being all fancy), however, has less to do with how we resemble God in our physical traits and more to do with who we are because of the "imprint" God has left on each of us as his creation. If Zachary did not want to look like me or Michelle, he could hide our "image" in him… and even change that image completely (half of Hollywood looks nothing like their parents anymore). What he cannot change, however, is our "imprint" in his life. No matter what our kids look like physically, our DNA is embedded in them in a way that will forever make them unmistakably ours. Being made in the imago Dei (there I go again… doesn't Latin make you feel smart), I think, is much more about what is forever embedded in us as the crown of God's creation. We are his children and no matter what we do or how we might try to cover that up or how deeply that gets lost in the lines drawn by society, every single one of us shares Gods "imprint". His DNA is inside of us and we are unmistakably his. That changes a lot of things for us, but lately this realization has forced me to ask questions about what God looks like. If his imago…errr… image is embedded in me, then is my "image of God" clear enough that I know how to express my identity — how to be who I really am. What I am beginning to discover as I pursue this is that my image of God for much of my life has been one that is pretty safe and sterile… family friendly, if you will. But as I look more deeply at the image of God revealed in Jesus… and as I come to know him better, it is becoming clear that the one who has left his imprint on my life is no safe, sterile God. No, Jesus reveals a wild and untamed God… and while we are certainly safe with him, when we follow his lead we often find ourselves face-to-face with darkness.
There is much more to think about in this regard, but that's probably a good place to pause for now.
Jesus, help me to live today as one created in your image… with your imprint in my life.