As we continue the theme of image and likeness from last week, my wife is pregnant. We’ve not yet had a child born. When my son comes out of Kara’s womb, he will look like me. He will be in my image. We don’t know yet which of us he will look more like, but to some degree, he will be both mine and Kara’s image, just as he is in God’s image. However, he will attain my likeness as I raise him. This comes from teaching him as he grows. At first, we will teach him the basic things. As he grows and can handle more, we will teach him the more advanced things of life.
You’ve heard the expression, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” This expression is not talking about the fact that the child looks like (is in the image of) his parents, but is instead referring to the fact that he acts like (or has the likeness of) his parents. This is because they have raised him and he is therefore like his parents. Some of this is very purposefully taught. Much of this is never actually taught, but because the child is always with his parents, he becomes like them in the way he thinks, feels, and acts.
I’m speaking of ordinary things because we live in this world and a good parent wants to teach his child everything he/she knows. Of course, God is God and He wants to teach His sons everything He knows!
If on the other hand, a parent puts their son up for adoption, that child will have the birth parents’ image, but will grow into the likeness of the one who raises him. If you see an adult who has been raised his whole life by adoptive parents, you will probably not hesitate to think they are natural born (unless they are clearly from a different race). The reason for this is their mannerisms, ways of thinking and acting will all be like their parents. They will be much more like their adoptive parents than their natural born parents! Although they might look identical to them, they will not “be like” them in the way they conduct themselves. In their nature and character. In whom they really are as people.
This is the story of God’s sons. Although we were made in His image, we were then whisked away and raised by the ruler of this world. When we choose God through Christ, we are adopted into His family. But practically speaking, it is like we have grown up in a world of divorced parents. We are made in the image of God, but we have primarily been raised by the ruler of this world. Ever since our conversion, our parents have had joint custody and so we have grown somewhat like our Father, but we have mostly been raised by the ruler of this world and we have taken on a lot of his likeness.
This is Part 4 in the series Bearing the Image and Likeness of God. To continue with this series, click on Pt 5. To use this as a growth tool to better understand your own calling, please read Pt 1, Pt 2 and Pt 3.