It is worth noting when looking at the Ten Commandments that the first four are about God. The second forbids making an image of anything that is in heaven while the fourth forbids using his name in vain. God is concerned about how his name and image are used before giving commands such as not to commit murder, adultery or theft.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” -Exodus 20:4
If our church wanted to promote the youth group, we might buy ad space in the local paper or even rent a billboard. Showing the kids shooting hoops on Saturday evening before outreach, cool. Photoshopping LeBron James into that picture? Not unless you want a lawsuit. His image, including his name and likeness, cannot be used with obtaining permission – for a price – from his agent(s) or legal representatives. If you were to purchase a clip art CD you have permission to use the images in things like school projects or in your church bulletin. If you publish a book, which you probably plan to sell for a profit, then you probably do not have permission to use those clip art images without obtaining additional licensing; for an additional fee. Celebrities, corporate logos and cartoon characters are not just giving away their image for nothing. Even worse is when someone’s image is defamed.
The ancient Hebrews were not to make an image of God or anything in heaven. All of the surrounding cultures had many gods, and they had many statues, paintings and likenesses of those gods. The Hebrews were not only monotheistic, they couldn’t even show their neighbors what their God looked like. But think about it; what do we know is made by God in his image and likeness? The Ten Commandments has a respect for life and for family. Of greater concern is the name and image of God. We are made in God’s image and the Hebrews were told God’s name would be upon his people and they would be known by his name as his people.
Now consider how those made in God’s image and known by his name have treated that image and name. A serial killer is not just guilty of taking life, a crime even still today punishable by death, he has destroyed those made in God’s image. I don’t want to open the tattoo can of worms, especially with someone with a small heart that says “Mom.” But when an individual has inked 90% of his body, shaved his head and eyebrows, and pierced… everything, it suggests that person had some issue with their original image. Liable and slander will get you in serious trouble but it has always been open season on God. Critics today go way beyond teaching there is no God, but that God is wicked, biased, racist, masochistic, sexist, and the list goes on.
God made man in his image and man, in his infinite wisdom, returned the favor. -Mark Twain
Part of God’s image problem today has to do with the way his people (the church) have represented him. I’m thinking Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist, preaching a gospel of anger and hate. Or the church leaders sitting on what appear to be solid gold thrones, wearing $10,000 suits and driving new Cadillacs. That Mark Twain quote is sad but true. Some will misjudge God not because of his own character flaws or shortcomings, but because of those who proclaim to be his people.
There are respectable images of George Washington on our dollar bills and on the face of Mount Rushmore. You can also see his likeness rapping about furniture sales around the time of President’s Day. God’s name and image are perhaps the most misused and abused in all of history.
Part 3 tomorrow.