Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The image of God and Losing face

In some Eastern cultures, a more natural way to speak of ideas like sin and guilt and shame is with the language of "losing face." The moral character, dignity, or integrity of a person, their image, is one way to speak about how a person's good character is related to their acceptance.

We use similar ideas here when someone loses their reputation: we say their image is tarnished. "Image" and "face" are closely related in meaning. The Bible speaks in terms of "image" fairly often; I expect the better Bible translations into Chinese may take some of these passages about "image" and speak of "losing face" and related ideas about it being granted, saved, or restored.

There is a work that Jesus does particularly for those who have lost face. The prophet Isaiah speaks of Jesus himself becoming like a person who is avoided, where people hide their faces from him -- someone considered evil and immoral. The prophecy spoke of Jesus as "disfigured", his face marred (Isaiah 52:13), being despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:3), a man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. But it was our sorrow, our grief, our shame that he carried, so that he might reach out to those who had lost acceptance, even through their own fault.

Here again we see how Paul explained what Jesus has done for us, for all the times when we have lost that character which God had intended for us:
You have taken off the old man with his acts and have put on the new, being renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him. (Col 3:10)

Paul explains that this image of God comes to us, first of all, through Christ, whom he calls
the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him were all things created, whether in heaven or on earth, visible and invisible. (Col 1:15)

Paul speaks of our renewal as a kind of reprise of creation, comparing Christ, the "heavenly man", to the first man or "earthly man":
As we have borne the image of the earthly man, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man. (I Cor 15:49)

God is all about restoration, making things whole, and pure, and new again. No loss is beyond his power to restore.

1 comment:

s-p said...

Very good, an excellent observation. As an aside, in the Oriental cultures if you walk in on someone naked they cover their faces, not their genitals.