In the Image and Likeness of God
a scriptural reflection on Christian character
by Don Schwager
Without vision people perish
The first worker said: “I’m laying bricks.”What motivated these workers? Money, ambition, vision? The scriptures warn us that “without vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18), Without moral vision, eventually individuals, families, and communities fall apart. What destroyed the great Roman Empire? History has shown that is was not just outside forces, but corruption (moral corruption) from within.
Charles Read said: “Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).
Moral vision for our lives
Character in its purest form is most clearly exemplified in the example of one whose life is dominated by an all-consuming purpose or direction. Francis of Assisi gave up inherited wealth for a life of voluntary poverty in his single-hearted pursuit of the love of God. Mother Theresa's life of heroic service to unwanted and poverty-stricken children and to the neglected, dying invalids of Calcutta was fueled by her all-consuming love for Jesus.
We grow in character to the degree that we attain singleness of purpose and direction. If we find that we cannot accept a higher job promotion or status in our career and at the same time act honestly in all our transactions, or if we realize that we cannot gain as much money as we can and at the same time treat all others fairly, then we must choose one or the other. We become as we have chosen. The kind of person we are, our character, determines to a large extent the kind of future we will face and live. Character is thus not an end in itself, but a means for achieving the purpose God created us for, namely to live Godly lives that bring honor and glory to his name.
Beholding the face of God
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding your form (Psalm 17:15).When Moses ascended Mount Sinai, he said to God, “Show me your face.” In Jesus we see the face of God. That is why Paul the Apostle says that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
Created in his own image
Great spiritual teachers have described the ultimate destiny and goal of human life as the beatific vision – seeing God face to face and enjoying his presence, which is the source of supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Cyprian, a church father writing in the second century, said: “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God... to delight in the joy of immortality in the kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends.”
The life of the beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.The beatitudes reveal to us the character of Jesus and the character he wishes his disciples to have. It makes sense that he would start his teaching ministry with the beatitudes, rather than with the commandments, because the beatitudes point us to the source of true human happiness and fulfilment. The beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness that God has placed in every heart. They teach us the final end to which God calls us, namely the coming of God’s kingdom (Matthew 4:17), the vision of God (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 2;1), entering into the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21-23) and into his rest (Hebrews 4:7-11).
Jesus’ beatitudes also confront us with decisive choices concerning the life we pursue here on earth, including the use we make of the goods he puts at our disposal. God alone satisfies. In the beatitudes Jesus asks each of us, Do you seek the highest good, the total good which is above all else?
The beatitudes are a sign of contradiction to the world's understanding of happiness and joy. Only the humble of heart who seek God can find the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: “No one can live without joy. That is why a person deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures.” Do you know the happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?
Supreme happiness and blessedness
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Virtues and Vices: Countering the deadly vices with Godly virtues.
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