Nov 8, 2006

Who Do You Think I Am?

The Christian answers to those three questions are not "companion" and "boss" and "employee." Such working relationships do appear in the Bible. For instance, Jesus speaks of the centurion's servant who does whatever the centurion requests (Matt. 8:5-13). But those answers are not the central insight of the Christian faith.

In fact, those answers force us to see people in a hierarchy.

Nor are the biblical answers to those questions to be found in the categories "male or female"—and I'm reminded that long ago Dorothy Sayers once wrote an essay called Are Women Human? Nor should we answer with the modern equivalents of "Jew or Gentile."

These answers force us to see people by genetics.

How, then, are we to see the people around us as we work?

Whether we work for them or they work for us, the people we work with are each an Eikon of God. In Genesis 1:26-27, God tells us that humans are made in the "image" and "likeness" of God. Theologians have debated for years just how best to translate and interpret "image" and "likeness," and those debates are important. A newer way of translating "image" (or "likeness") is with the word Eikon—and it evokes the entire Bible’s understanding of who we are.

Genesis 1:26-27 cries out that humans, somehow, are "like God." We are God's representatives on earth, God's stewards and governors of his creation. And, because we are God's stewards, we answer to God. And, because every single one of us is "like God," we are to hold each person we meet and work with as special—as an Eikon of God.

Ever try that? Ever try seeing each person as made specially by God and given a mission in this world to bring glory to God in every relationship? Learning to see each human as an Eikon can radically change our view of others and our relationships with them.

Anyone who digs around a bit in Genesis 1-3 will learn that humans have four relationships: to God, to self, to others, and to the world (Garden of Eden). In Genesis 1-2, everything goes well: Adam and Eve relate to God beautifully, they understand themselves as Eikons, they relate to one another in trust and honor, and they care for God's good garden. But, Genesis 3 disrupts each relationship: they hide from God, they blame one another, they are ashamed of themselves and their bodies, and they get kicked out of the garden.

The Christian response to this four-fold distortion of the Eikon is found in Jesus Christ—whose mission was to restore cracked Eikons in each of these four directions. According to the apostle Paul, Jesus Christ is the perfect Eikon, and we are called to be transformed from the cracked Eikon condition of Genesis 3 to become Christ-like Eikons (2 Cor. 3:18-4:4). As we become more and more Christ-like, we are restored in our relationship with God, with self, with others, and the world.

If we learn to see each person as an Eikon, and each person as designed by God to become Christ-like Eikons, we will come to respect and honor the integrity and value of every person we work with. Those people we bump into, those people who chat with us in the boardroom, and those who walk with us as we leave our workplace, all people are Eikons of God—filled with God's potential to lead God-honoring lives.

Read more of Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed.

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