By Noel Santiago
Philippians 2:5-7, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
“Oye, pero tú eres el mismo Teodoro,” (“Oh my, you are the spitting image of your dad!”) These were the words my father’s childhood friend spoke when he saw me as my family and I were visiting friends of our parents from Puerto Rico.
I began to ponder these words in light of the Genesis text which states that we are created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). How was it that my father’s friend could say that I was my father’s “spitting image”? Because I am my father’s son, made of the essence of both he and my mother, and because he knew my father, he knew I resembled my father’s likeness. Now, just because I look like my father doesn’t mean I am my father, but there certainly is a close resemblance, at least in the eyes of my father’s childhood friend.
In this Philippians passage Paul is writing to the Philippians, stating that their attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God did not consider that reality something that should keep him from taking on the form of human likeness. Ponder that for a moment! God taking on human likeness! Could it be that when God created us in God’s image, God created us in a form God would be able to inhabit?
If God did not consider equality with Him something that would hinder Him from taking on human form, then could we not also “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and not let our human form keep us from that?
We clearly are not God! Let’s be clear about that. However, aren’t we made of the essence of God when God breathed into humankind the breath of life? Isn’t that breath, God’s Spirit, the essence of our make up? If all this is true, then what is imaginable for those who continually live keenly aware of God’s presence in them through the Holy Spirit that was made possible in Christ Jesus?
Jesus was once asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17). Granted the questioners were trying to trap him in his words, but note Jesus’ response after acknowledging that he knew what they were trying to do. Asking for a penny — and in good Jewish teaching form — he responds with another question: ‘whose image and inscription is this?’ When they reply Caesar’s, he states: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” (Mark 12:17).
Now, if the questioners would have been sincere in their query, couldn’t they have asked another question: “And what things belong to God?” Could one response have been: whose image do you bear?
What does it mean that we are created in God’s image when it comes to our relationships, not only with each other, but all those around us? Might one of the church’s primary mission include helping others see the image of God they are created in? Whose image do you bear?