An elephant which kills a rat is not a hero. - Cameroonian
Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. -Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady of the UK)
Be nice to people you meet on your way up, because you’re going to meet them all on your way down. -Jimmy Durante United States
Remember, even monkeys fall out of trees. - Korean
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. -Abraham Lincoln
Can you think of any other proverbs or parables about power from your partnership contexts?
What Do The Parables Reveal? All humans have some level of power. All humans can employ the power they have. All humans are at risk of abusing their power. All humans at time bump up against the limitations of their power and, when they do, it can be a frustrating and difficult experience.
Imago Dei & Image Bearing In this theological construct I have found the capacity to partner better and more fruitfully when things get difficult.
The Wycliffe Global Alliance & Missio Dei God is a missionary sending God. He has a plan for the world. He is “on” mission. The mission is “His” and not ours to control. Our responsibility is to follow Him on that mission.
The Link Between Imago Dei and Missio Dei Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Genesis 1:26-28 (continued) God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiple, and fill the earth, and subdue it….”
The Link Between Missio Dei & Imago Dei Critical to God’s sending mission has always been that human beings would model His nature, values and character in all we did as we are sent into the world.
Missio Dei & The Distorted Image Bearer We know the sorrow of Genesis 3 and the misuses and abuses of power that have happened since that time. People began perverting their own use of their power to deceive, manipulate, exploit and even kill others who were made in the image of God. They also stopped relying on God as their true source of power and identity, and began looking to idols.
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei Although there are many theological interpretations of what it means to be created in God’s image and how sin has impacted image bearing (Dyrness 2008, 43-51), “in recent years it has generally been agreed that the Bible nowhere speaks of a loss of the image” (Bray 2000, 575).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei “At the outset the concept of man as the image or likeness of God tells us that” humans are “to mirror God and to represent God” (Hoekema 1986, 67). This is core to their identity.
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei We are not to design or craft graven images or idols (Exodus 20:4) because God “has already created an image of himself: a living, walking, talking image” (Hoekema 1986, 67).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei “Power is all about image bearing- reflecting and refracting the creative power of the world’s Maker into the very good creation. And image bearing is for flourishing” (Crouch 2013, 67).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei Before sin entered the world imago Dei was wholly evident. “After man’s fall into sin, the image of God was not annihilated but perverted…. Because of the Fall, therefore, the image of God in man, though not destroyed, has been seriously corrupted” (Hoekema 1986, 83).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei “In fact, the very greatness of man’s sin consists in the fact that he is still an image-bearer of God.” That is what makes sin so heinous. “Corruptio optimi pessima: the corruption of the best is the worst” (Hoekema 1986, 85).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei Thankfully through His work on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for the sin of humanity. Through Him there is forgiveness, redemption and renewal. We know He is the true image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). As we follow Him we are drawn into a journey of renewal and transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-16; Gal. 5:16-25).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei What was perverted “is being rectified, is being set straight again” (Hoekema 1986, 86). “This renewal is both God’s gift” and each human beings “task” (Hoekema 1986, 89).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei “The renewal of the image of God, therefore, is not an experience in which” human beings “remain passive, but one in which” each person “must take an active part” (Hoekema 1986, 91).
Theological Reflections About Imago Dei “Likeness to God is still” each person’s “true identity and so fuller participation in this reality” remains each person’s “true calling. These twin motifs, namely identity and participation, are important” (Robinson 2010, 15).
Reflection So how in the world does an understanding of the theological construct imago Dei (a.k.a. – image bearing) help us gain greater capacity to partner well in difficult situations so we will use our own power appropriately?
Difficult Things Our capacity to forgive lies in our remembering how much He has forgiven us (Matthew 18: 21-35). Our capacity to love our enemies lies in our remembering how God treats the unrighteous (Matthew 5:44-48).
Difficult Things Our capacity to endure hardship lies in our remembering Christ’s example on the cross (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Our Eternal Destiny In the midst of all the missional work God is doing in the world He is deeply concerned that His sons and daughters follow the path of obedience so we learn how to once again reflect His image, and become like Him in all we do and in all we say as we work with Him in His mission.
The Power Of Seeing Forgiveness is almost impossible. Loving one’s enemies is almost impossible. Enduring hardship gracefully is almost impossible. What makes it possible? A crucial step for lasting transformation lies in “seeing” His example and accepting His call to bear His image as we work in global partnerships.
The Ultimate Transformation “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” – 1 John 3:2 That ultimate, complete seeing will seem to be the catalyst for lasting and ultimate transformation. For now even partial seeing produces good fruit.
Small Group Exercise 1) Take a few minutes to describe to someone else how God has partnered with you. 2) Discuss how His example in your own life might shed light on how to address a challenging issue in your partnership or ministry context.
Bibliographic References: Crouch, Andy. 2013. Playing God: Redeeming the gift of power. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Dyrness, William A. and Veli-Matti Karkkainen, eds. 2008. Global dictionary of theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. Bray, Gerald L. 2000. Image of God. In New dictionary of Biblical theology: Exploring the unity and diversity of Scripture, ed. T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D. A. Carson and Graeme Goldsoworthy, 575- 576. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Hoekema, Anthony A. 1986. Created in God’s image. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. Robinson, Dominic. 2010. Understanding the “imago Dei” thought of Barth, von Balthasar and Moltmann. Surrey, England: Ashgate.