Friday, August 28, 2015

Image and Power

It is hard to look anywhere and not see it. It is seen from both the rich and the poor as well as from the school dropout and school graduate. It is a flexing, an exhibition, a taunting, a display, a flaunting. It may be through speech, actions or behavior. The sole purpose is to impress and shock through displays of image and power. It may be loud. It may be crass. It may be subtle. It may be manipulative. It may be forceful. It may be humorous. It may be violent. Image and power may even be, in this cyber age, virtual.

These two, image and power, as seen by the witting and the unwitting, the impressed and the shocked are not necessarily true, typically. These are not necessarily actual or substantive. These, whether or not it is intended, merely convey the desired effect on others what is the individual's desire and notion of image and power. These two are not necessarily mutually exclusive and even though I have presented these two separate from each other they are very much intertwined. If these appear as negatively cast in this article it is not because image and power are wrong or evil. Rather, it is because this is the reality of what has become corrupt. These facades of image and power are represented and assumed as though these were real.

the image of attire and body

What are some ways by which image is conveyed? Here are two of those ways. The image of abundance, of affluence or simply having a little more than just barely enough on which to live, may be displayed through the clothes one wears. It may be the expensive brand which speaks for itself or how the clothes are worn. Clothes may be worn to reveal, (such as underwear; more on that later) to form-fit the body so as to accent the physical shape or to reveal as much flesh as the wearer wishes to expose and to elicit arrest for indecency. Image, such as through clothes, is not necessarily what one wears, but how one wears what he or she wears.

The image of rebellion such as against parents or society may be conveyed, for example, through leather, metal spikes, chains, tattoos and more. However, rebellion can and is conveyed just as well through nothing more than an attitude, speech and behavior. Additions to one's attire such as these are intended to project the desired image of being bad, a hard case, a bad-ass, or the neutral non-commitment of indifference and apathy. After all, what could be cooler in the eyes of the witting and unwitting than to project the image that, I don't care? Isn't this the shallow, empty image message of sagging pants? The exposing of one's underwear is to simultaneously reveal to the witting and unwitting the individual's great, abysmal facade and farce of an image of power. So, unlike affluence and abundance, or their seeming presence in the person's life, the image of rebellion, by its very nature, is not likely to be closely associated with clothes as much as it is behavior.

the need for image and image change

America is a consumer-driven society. Don't like your image? We'll find one for you. We'll get you one. We'll make one for you. It is not in society's interest, and quite understandably, it is not the business of society, to redirect the new-image shopper back to square one. So, why do you need an image?

What if image didn't involve succumbing to peer pressure, seasonal, annual refurbishing or reinvention? How about if it were detached, removed and free of all association with gender and the clothes you wear? Does this sound like a ridiculous and preposterous notion in our consumer-driven society? Yet, image as a reality and a discussion point appears in the dialog of the Bible in the book of Genesis, that is, the book of beginnings. It is there that after the narrative relates how God created man it also notes that God created man, that is, mankind, man and woman, and MADE them in the image of God.

This image of God in the man and woman had nothing to do with gender.

The reason it had nothing to do with gender is because whatever the image of God might be, for the moment and for later discussion, it is definitely not related to the physical features which define the male and female body. In other words, any view of the image of God which fails to account for the differences in the human male and female body is less than true to the image of God. What does this say about image?

It says that image is as embedded and is as permanent and non-removable as is our human DNA code.

The deception of image to which Eve succumbed unwittingly was not unlike women, and men, today. She desired what was 1) pleasant to the eyes (it looked good), 2) it was good to eat (it was filling), and 3) it would make her wise, or proud (something to boast about).

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6, also I John 2:16)

The reason why anyone would feel they do not have an image, that they need an image or that they need to upgrade their image like something from the American tech mall is because they either 1) never knew they were born with an image, 2) they forgot they were born with an image, or 3) they rejected the truth of the image with which they were born. Knowledge nor acknowledgment of God is not a prerequisite for anyone to ponder this reality.

The impudence of blatant consumerism! The business of image has gone, in the vernacular of technology, from the hardware upgrades of attire to the software alterations of gender image in complete oblivion as to the ramifications. The desire for mistaken notions of image by women and men today is no different than Eve's complete oblivion to the ramifications of her disobedience. The embrace and allowable peddling of image by therapists and surgeons is akin to accepting without question the salesman's pitch for a new computer when a simple removal of temporary files would have improved speed and performance.

made in the image of God

What is it about the image of God which can not be found, will not be found and can not be made in the American tech mall? How could a believer who once knew the image of God forget it? Why would he or she reject the image of God? The salient point of the human response to these questions is as understandable as it is undeniable. For example, a Ford does not cease to be a Ford with a new paint job. swapping an icon or by calling it a Chevrolet. These things do not change the fact that it is a Ford which has been altered to look like a Chevrolet. It would not take much for even a casual observer to discern that despite all efforts and appearances the car is, in fact, a Ford. Amazingly enough, what holds true of a metal and plastic car holds equally true of a flesh and bones human being.

It is not as though altering one's image hurts anyone else, as is so often heard, but what is it and how is it then, that image can be obscured and overlooked in favor of an American mall-purchased image? How is it that the image of God, that is, love, in which God made the man and the woman and which is certainly not available or found in the shopping mall, has come to be obscured and overlooked? Simply but truthfully stated it is a matter of looking of acceptance and love in all the wrong places.

This love is not to be mistaken for being loving which God is that, too. What the scriptures reveal is that it was the will and purpose of God to make the man and woman with this same love. It was his will to imbue the man and the woman with his love. It was this love which it pleased God to see in the physical love affection between the man and woman; the husband and wife. It is the love of God and towards God which becomes a far greater reality between the man and the woman when they reclaim the image of God for themselves and towards all mankind through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Love, not gender, is the image of God. Love is divine and not natural.

Love is greater than what is natural, that is, what is earthly. Love is not easy because it is not the mere appearance of image or a facade. It is, on the other hand, easier to alter and call something love than to submit to love itself. Love is two different persons, two different personalities, two different genders working diligently  over a lifetime together to go past their differences and to make and display the love and unity that is the God who is one. This is the mystery and marvel; that two different human beings strive to be one like God and with God. It is the mystery and marvel seen in the human interaction and relationship of marriage. The failure and shortfall of image is that it is a facade of what has been altered. There is no glory in deceiving or being deceived by an image of what is false. There is no lasting joy in facades.

the will of power and death

The flesh, Jesus said, is weak. The reason the flesh appears to exert its power over the spirit is not because the flesh is strong. It is not because the spirit is weak. It is because the spirit calls and waits for those who hear its call to come in obedience and submission without manipulation, compulsion or coercion. This is not the way of the flesh.

Power is, even more so than image, flexed and flaunted to create the desired effect; that is, to impress and shock the witting and unwitting. It is a visual, carnal spectacle. The visual nature of power and how it reveals itself in the flesh exposes, for example, the hunger of bankers, performers, athletes and others for power. The carnal desire for power is not unlike the carnal desire for image: Eve desired what was 1) pleasant to the eyes (it looked good), 2) good to eat (it was filling), and 3) would make her wise, or proud (something to boast about).

Carnal, as in, carnival. Originally, carnival, literally, a farewell to meat, was the celebration and joy of meat and drink before the beginning of the days of fasting from meat and drink. Carnal is used in the scriptures in the representative, or symbolic sense, for what is opposed to the spirit, the Holy Spirit or a mind set on the things of this world.

This power is no more real or substantive than the image much desired and pursued by some. It is loud. It is the brash, crass, crude, rude, vulgar and a bravado of defiance in the song playing, in the workplace exchange, and even as is often displayed, between the bond of husband and wife. Children in such families are often nothing more than insignificant collateral casualties to obscenities and vulgarities. Crassness and vulgarities which were at one time indicators that the power of physical aggression was soon to follow are the stuff of casual exchanges as much between friends as between lovers. Some of the devices of power, in addition to words, of those who seek power include weapons to hurt,  maim or kill stranger, friend or family alike.

The quest for power is as old as the quest for image. The irony and the travesty of the events in the Garden of Eden is that by forgetting, neglecting and dismissing for one brief moment the image in which they were made, Eve and Adam corrupted their image. While they were obedient there was nothing to fear. There was no power over them. Yet, in the aftermath of their disobedience the immediate result was, as God himself stated, that the man and the woman had become like God knowing good and evil. However, the price they paid was heavy. The price was they acquired the association of power, but it was not to serve them. It was to lord it over them. The power was death.

Those who believe they are powerful because they have power never realize and never ask themselves what is that vague, remote sense of awareness in their minds: What is the fear from which this false notion of power delivers them? What is the ultimate power from which this false power can deliver them? The lust and hunger for image and power in the unwitting Eve and Adam was that their confidence before the Lord was lost. They covered their nakedness as a result.

the power of God

The truth is the power of the flesh with all its bravado, violence, trash talk, weapons and devices may fend off momentarily the assault, but death will have the last word over those who crave and thought they had power in those false images of power. What is the purpose of an image which alters or conceals one's true identity? Why does one have a need to conceal their true identity? What is the purpose of power which is exerted over others? Is it not because they lack the power and confidence to face and confront what they fear?

Death is the great equalizer. It is the sobering agent for those who are drunk with mistaken notions of image and power. The power of death is, not unlike the image in which God made man and woman, as undeniable and non-removable. What is one to do when they come to the realization of the deceptive futility of image and power? This is the beginning, the genesis, where one examines closely the claims and fulfillment of the message of Jesus concerning his own death, burial and resurrection.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 

15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14, 15)

The message (note the reference to power and the past tense of death) of this love of God, the apostle Paul wrote, is the power of God. More specifically and literally, the apostle Paul stated that the message of the gospel is the dynamite, (δύναμις, dunamis) , the power of God. The gospel has the explosive potential to transform the fearful and powerless into the image of God through the power of the gospel and the promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Be of good cheer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gifts, Ministries and Effects

Some observations and thoughts came to mind from today’s daily reading of the scriptures in the New Testament section of I Corinthians 12.

The saints in Christ often think and talk about those things which they would like to live out in their daily lives. They want to do so in the knowledge and confidence that they do so in the Spirit who indwells them. One thing which is common in the apostle Paul’s teaching is that each individual is a part of a greater whole; the body of believers. What’s more Paul may sometimes be difficult to understand, as the apostle Peter himself noted, (I Peter 3:15,16) but he is never vague or superficial.

He wrote to the church in Corinth as to what the “same Spirit” “same Lord” and “same God” had done, but he also specified what they each one had done. Quite likely, some might infer from that reference to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but that is not what I take away from the passage. Rather, it is another instance of Paul’s seemingly vague or superficial (not Paul by any means) reference on which he elaborates.

One thing with which Paul’s messages always resound is the unity from diversity. In this instance, it is the gifts, -by the same Spirit, -the ministries, by the same Lord, and -the effects, by the same God. Each one of these, gift, ministry and effect, reflects a move from the lesser to the greater; the individual to the group. Is a gift less than an effect? It is if that which one has received from the Spirit remains ineffectual in him or her as though they had not received anything or something too small and of little significance from the Holy Spirit.

What Paul notes about these is that they are for the common good, (verse 7) not a personal exaltation by the individual Then, in true form, Paul specifies how that common good of my gift in our ministry shows its effect among others. It is in that the members may have the same care for one another. (verse 25) This should be no surprise for the saints in Christ because love for one another as Jesus commanded is ultimately to care for one another.