This past week I watched a thought-provoking speech delivered by former President George W. Bush on the value of democracy and a free society. In that speech are these words: “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions–-forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.” Add to this observation the behavior of powerful people at the top of the lucrative entertainment industry that has recently come to light, actions of men who took sexual advantage of the women whom they treated as little more than objects of their own selfish desires, and the question might indeed be pondered: When we look at one another, whose likeness SHOULD we see? Genesis 1:26 gives the answer: “[God said] let us make mankind in our image.”
That’s important for us as we arrive one week closer to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and consider the second of three solas: sola gratia, or “grace alone.” The image of God that we should see in one another is the image that has been marred and degraded by human brokenness. Yet the Son of God, the One in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:14-16) is the One through whom the image of God in humankind is restored. One of the most wonderful privileges I have as your pastor is not only to bring the gifts of salvation to you every Sunday through the Word of God and the Sacraments, but to speak the benediction over you week after week with the sign of the cross. Being baptized into Christ doesn't mean we become perfect people. It does mean that the image of God brought to all people of the world through Christ is something we can claim as our own...though we’ve done nothing to deserve it. In Christ, we wear the image of our King and are given to see His image in one another, too.
Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus once confronted his listeners with a reminder about where the King’s image was to be found. In a debate intended to trap Jesus, a debate over whether taxes should be paid to Caesar or not, Jesus has his opponents produce a coin and then asks: “Whose image and inscription is this?” When they reply “Caesar’s,” Jesus then says: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In Christ, the image of the only true King (our Father and Creator) on all of us has been restored. How might we better see that image in one another this week, as we strive to render to God what is truly his?