We learn that “God created man in His own image” (Gen 1:27). God’s image is perfect and righteous and holy, so we must be also. But then we are startled to hear that “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7). These are two very different accounts of the creation of mankind. Can they be explained as two different texts that were brought together by editing, or is God trying to tell us something?
I have concluded that these two versions are intentional, and they instruct us that God is working with His people in two phases. The first phase is hard to grasp, because we rarely see ourselves as created in God’s image.
A Jewish friend of mine once told me that Jews are mystified by the Christian emphasis on man’s sinful condition and their untold hours and efforts to overcome their sins. “We Jews,” she told me, “see ourselves as the children of God whom God created in His image.” “Our desire in life,” she added, “is to keep that image in front of us, and to do our best to live up to what God has given us.” In my experience, I have found that Jews tend to laugh in a loving way at the frailties of mankind because these frailties are “so human.” I think this is a healthy approach.
The contrast between the Jewish mindset and the Christian perception is a positive outlook versus a negative one. Why should we Christians focus on our sins, which occupies us with all the negative aspects of our personalities? After all, we learn that God is all positive, and in Him is no negative (2 Co 1:19). So, if we want to change and become more Christ-like, which will allow us to walk with God in peace and truth and love, we should follow the advice of the author of Hebrews by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 2:2).
STOP! You just saw the two phases of God’s work with His children. First, for Christians, Yeshua is the author of their entering into the family of God. When that happens God sees His children in His image because He has birthed them and they belong to Him. They are newborn without flaws or sins.
But then comes the second phase, which is God shaping us like a potter shapes clay from the dust of the earth. That is how Yeshua is the “perfecter” of our faith. I think Isaiah’s words capture this thought so beautifully. “Now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isa 64:8). So, let us keep our eyes fixed on Yeshua, and keep a positive mindset that eagerly desires to grow closer to God.
There is one last postscript to this message. We have focused on ourselves as individuals, but this same principle applies quite successfully to our relationships with other people. Don’t condone their sinful nature, but stay focused on all their positive aspects. What will likely happen is that they may begin to see themselves in a positive light as well, and you will be surprised by the result.
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