“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:15-17 KJV)
“…image of the invisible God…” Initially that might sound odd as it is difficult to have a picture of something invisible. Yet the more you understand the term image, the more visible what was previously invisible the term becomes. What is an image? It is literally a likeness, like a statue is an image of a person or like an artist’s profile may resemble how a person looks. Think of image like a gold standard. As an I.T. Systems Administrator it is common to continually refine an image for desktop and laptop computer deployments. We want a base standard of software from which every employee of the company can begin from. Something with properly licensed software, common software versions for the user’s applications, and we want it virus and worm free. A freshly deployed image should work every time it is tried. An image can also be thought of as an industry standard. Once you find a really good way to insure quality and efficiency you want to repeat the production of that product and that level of service over and over. Perhaps your “image” has even been adopted by a industry association or a governing body in your area. Standards seem to be an essential building block in both business and government.
Somewhere in this process the image turns on us. How, you say? As we continually refine how things ought to be done, we become less sensitive to anything fresh that is around us. There is increasingly less room for anything that has not gone through the appropriate channels. We are concerned about bugs, infections, and things that might threaten the quality of our image such that in our management there is no longer a degree of surrender. We want things that are new and improved so that our products and services appear to be on the cutting edge and capable of the highest premiums. Yet when the freshest material from God arrives it is cast away because it cannot be shaped into our image. It is unusable. The problem of our image grows as images can be nested inside images. In technology, it is quite common to have thousands of virtual machines inside clusters of servers connected in a high availability clouds. Possession is quickly the name of the game. Not that we are inherently possessive nor are we intentionally savage. We simply begin to see things not for what they are, but for the possibilities the pieces or elements of it could benefit what we are attempting to build. We assimilate things for the parts that are useful to us and those pieces that will further our projects. We have a harder time having an awe or wonder for the work that God has given us inside the image that He has already created. God establishes supremacy with the understanding that we are made from His image (see Genesis 1:27). He also warns us not to create images of our own (see Exodus 20:4, 5). You can even feel a portion of that uncomfortable tug when you are forced into doing something because it is the image of an industry standard or a government regulation compared with doing something because it is the morally right thing to do.
Consider the example of Nebuchadnezzar and how his heart changed in regards to the image he saw in a dream. “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.” (Daniel 2:31 KJV) Daniel goes on to explain the meaning of this image which is made of five parts: gold, silver, bronze, iron, and then feet of mixed iron and clay. The very next chapter, Nebuchadnezzar makes this image; only he makes it entirely of gold. This was basically his way of saying that his kingdom was the entire statue rather than only a part of the statue (the head). This may explain a great deal of Nebuchadnezzar’s rage when three of Daniel’s friends refuse to bow to his image. The reply the friends give is all the more honest because they are able to see beyond what the king sets up as his image and what God had previously shown him as only a part of it. God blesses what these friends saw as unseen through their faith with a very visible presence in the furnace.
Paul has a critically clear understanding of Jesus in Colossians 1:15-17 (quoted above) in that God must make the image and not us. In our quest to manage the perfect product, service, process, group, team, candidate, and regulation we must understand that it is not in better management that we get there. It is in surrendering to the only one who has already made what he has made in His image. To continually play the part of the refiner and not the vessel causes us to look ever increasingly at things as objects of possession. There is an ugly end to that road in that it does eventually possess us.
“And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.” (Mark 5:9 KJV)