To Be Made in the Image of God

On the night of Thursday, February 9th, the sounds of warfare could be heard on Ajiri-Dikwa road in Borno state, Northeastern Nigeria [1]. Caught in a clash with Boko Haram members, seven members of the Nigerian military were killed, and 19 others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Over 30 Boko Haram members were killed, according to the report made by the Nigerian military [2].

In other places in the Northeast, food shortages are threatening millions of lives already ravaged by Boko Haram. According to this article, a new UN report has stated that 11 million people are living with food shortages in Nigeria. In the report, many shocking statistics were found: An estimated 120,000 Nigerians will suffer from “famine-like conditions” from food shortages, while 500,000 children total are in great risk of death due to malnutrition. Though Boko Haram members may have not directly created this suffering and loss through militantly attacking the people, this terrorist uprising has played a huge role in the famine-like, scarce conditions those in Nigeria (especially in Northern Nigeria) are facing.

Thousands of human beings have been made into objects, by becoming kidnappees and sex slaves [3]. 15 million Nigerians have been displaced by terrorism. And aside from the physical bondage and atrocities committed, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse has run rampant.

This couldn’t be more apparent than in deradicalisation programmes operating in Northern Nigeria. In the case of a woman named Aisha– a former wife of Boko Haram (BH) commander, Mamman Nur– it has taken almost a year to free her, and others, of their Jihadi muslim brainwashing. In the Sambisa Forest (Boko Haram’s stronghold), where kidnap, slavery, sexual abuse, and oppression in every form reign supreme, many women like Aisha came to love the power and “security” of being married to a prominent BH leader. Corrupted by this evil, women like Aisha have become cold-hearted, even threatening to rape men [4].

All around, people touched by the evil theology that is Boko Haram have been reduced to nothing more than objects, to be used, owned, and oppressed. But, contrary to what this religion teaches, God did not create mankind– both men and women– to be anything less than the pinnacle of His Creation, created in His very Image.

But what does it mean to be created in God’s Image? The term, “Imago Dei,” has been used by theologians for centuries, to describe the concept of humanity alone being made to directly reflect the Image of God, their Creator. It is first found in the Biblical book of Genesis, back to when God made the first human beings:

“So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.”
(Genesis 1:27, NIV)

The concept is simple: Because humankind was created in God’s Image, each human life is sacred and worth protecting. Each human soul is worth investing in, no matter the separations and “classes” set up by this world.

This also means that, because each human life uniquely matters, people are more than statistics. It can be easy to name large numbers; and at times, it is quite necessary to do so, so that others might realize the enormity of such atrocities. But, each human being, from a child in the womb, to the oldest of the elderly, is personally created in God’s Image– making it important to remember that each number only begins to describe the amount of pain and anguish each person is experiencing, whatever their situation may be.

Being made in the Image of God also means that we are like Him. Because humanity is made in God’s Image, humans cannot make images, or false gods, that are real or will actually save them. God created us in His Image; we did not ever create Him, nor can we ever, in our own. As Isaiah 43 says, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me'” (Isaiah 43:10, NIV). As the One and Only True God, God made humanity in His Image, so that He might have a relationship with each one of them.

A pastor once said, “God first made us, so that He could Love us.” Being made in the Image of God means that we are Loved by, and made to love, God. Created to be in relationship with Him, all of humanity has been made with an inherent desire to know God, whether they believe it or not; they have “eternity planted in their hearts,” created with an eternal soul (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem? Sin. Trying to live life without acknowledging and accepting that humanity was made by God, for Him, and in His Image, humanity has lost its true identity. Unable to be fulfilled– or as many have said, being created with an “unfilled, God-shaped hole”– people become exactly what they should never be.

Yet, even in the messiness of sin, God still sees people as they were initially: made in His Image, by Him and for Him. Though this image is marred, God still Loves humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

God has given humanity a way to get back to being the Image Bearers they were always meant to be. His Name is Jesus– and He is not only way, but is The Way (John 14:6). The world, ruled by the evil one (1 John 5:19), sees people as statistics, diagnoses, cases, and classes. Even religion tries to objectify people in this way (as seen in passages like John 4).

But Jesus? He doesn’t. As God Himself, Christ sees each person as worth dying for. He sees you as worth dying for.

Each person mentioned in these headlines– from the 30 Boko Haram members, to the 500,000 children starving, to the countless wives of Boko Haram commanders– each one is an immortal soul, greatly and deeply Loved by Christ. In their hour of trouble, darkness, and need, let them be lifted up in prayer to the One who created them– in His Image. 🔹

 

[1]  https://www.yahoo.com/news/boko-haram-kills-seven-nigerian-soldiers-ambush-072757958.html
[2]  http://www.africanews.com/2017/02/11/nigeria-military-kills-over-30-boko-haram-insurgents-loses-7-soldiers-in-borno/
[3] and [4] http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/02/11/power-sex-and-slaves-nigeria-battles-beliefs-of-boko-haram-brides_c1504697
[5] https://bible.org/seriespage/7-supremacy-person-christ-col-115-18



Do you know Jesus?

Have you ever tried to do good works, or be a “good person,” to earn God’s Love and Acceptance?

While it may be well intentioned, the Bible says that our righteous works are like “dirty rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). Think of it: We, as images or reflections, apart from God, can do nothing to “clean ourselves up.” Instead, we only make ourselves more dirty!

Colossians 1 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16, NIV).

At first glance, this passage in Colossians 1 seems to deny that Jesus is God– or at least, that He is completely equal to every other human being, also being made in the image of God. However, in the greek, the word “image” can mean both “representation” and “manifestation”: While any other human can be the image of God to varying degrees, Jesus is not only the perfect representation of the Invisible God, but is the Only One who perfectly reveals the character and nature of God [5], being fully human and fully God.

To see what God is truly like, one must look at Jesus. Perfect in every way, as God Himself, Christ paid the ultimate price so that we– as marred Images of a Holy God– could come to know Him, and become more like Him in a personal, Saving, Love relationship. Nothing can save us, and “clean us up,” other than the completely finished work of Jesus Christ, and the power of God’s Spirit in our lives (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:14).

We cannot save ourselves, nor can we know God “on our own terms.” Jesus was either a lunatic; evil; or the Christ, “Messiah”– the Savior of the world.

To know God, a person must first accept Jesus as God the Son (1 John 4:15), and accept His atoning work on the cross. “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25, NLT).

Learn more about the God who came to die for you, the Only One who can save you and “clean you up” (2 Thessalonians 2:13), here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You, for doing all that is needed, to cleanse us and bring us into a real, personal, saving relationship with Yourself. Thank You, for Loving us enough, to step into the darkness and messiness of our lives, in order to save and make us more like You.

Dear Jesus,
All around, we read tragic headlines, naming and numbering off people who have passed away. Especially in Northern Nigeria, during the Boko Haram insurgency, please open our eyes, and make us more sensitive to the fact that each person written about– each person dying– is a soul, made in Your Image.

With that in mind, Dear Jesus,
I pray over all our brothers and sisters who are currently dying in the fight against Boko Haram. Dear Jesus, thank You for their sacrifice, for those in the Nigerian military, and thank You that they considered dying for the freedom and protection of their countrymen to be a cause worth fighting for. We pray all of this for all soldiers, dear Jesus, fighting for noble causes.

Dear Jesus,
We also pray over the 500,000 thousand children starving, in Northern Nigeria, right now.
Please, Lord Jesus, send us– however that may look, whether in prayers, material/financial support, or actually going there– and aid agencies to feed these children, not only physical food, but to share with them about You, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

Dear Jesus,
We pray for women, like Aisha. King Jesus,
It is heartbreaking to see what happened to them, while under Boko Haram captivity, and what has become of them, because of it.

Yet, dear Jesus,
We know they still, somehow, bear Your Image.
Dear Jesus,
Please bring these muslim men and women to know You, 
and please restore all those who are lost, to know You, so that You might give them a heart of flesh, instead of a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).

Please restore those who are suffering displacement and captivity– specifically, the 195 Chibok girls who are still missing. Please, Lord Jesus, free and restore these young women, so that they might be whole, only in You.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your Great Love for us.
It is in Jesus’ Name I pray,

Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!! Jesus bless you!!

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