Friday, June 19, 2009

A Meditation for Father's Day

Fathers and the Image of God - a meditation of Father’s Day
When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth.” (Gen 5:3)
MAIN IDEA: Our often imperfect view of our fathers can only be made perfect: in Christ. In Christ, our relationship with our earthly fathers can be made whole

The term ‘Like father like son,” is a popular phrase used to describe the similarities and familiar behavioral patterns of a father and son relationship. Some use it literally in their names, like John Doe Sr (for the father) and John Doe, Jr (for the son). Royalties sometimes use numerical notations such as the British monarchy; Queen Elizabeth I and II, King Henry 1-V and so on. Many families traditionally depend on sons to continue to keep their family names. Names have a strong connection to likeness and in the image of the father. Adam, the first man was created in the image (צֶלֶם, tzelem) of God. The next occurrence of (צֶלֶם, tzelem) interestingly did not appear for the second generation of Cain-Abel. It came in Gen 5:3 where Seth was the one chosen to continue on the line of blessings and inheritance, which began with Adam. Seth was supposed to continue from where Abel left. As we might recall, Abel was murdered by Cain, his brother. (צֶלֶם, tzelem) has a certain connotation of being ‘cut out of’ some being. In this case, it is an image that comes out of the figure of God the Father. There is another word for ‘image’ called (פֶּ֖סֶל, pesel) which is something hewed out of a material object. (פֶּ֖סֶל, pesel) is typically used in graven molded images (Lev 26:1, Deut 4:16, Judges 17:3). It seems like the (צֶלֶם, tzelem) is from some personal being, while (פֶּ֖סֶל, pesel) represents out of some object thing. Three observations can be made.

1) Beyond the Physical
We live in a world where looks and superficial things come across as ‘first impression counts.’ At interviews, we hear image consultants telling us to dress well so that we gain a favorable impression from our prospective employers. For organizations that hire on the basis of looks, they will frequently miss out potentially excellent employees. When Adam and Seth are made in the image of God, their likeness is far beyond the physical. They are also endowed with the creative ability to bring goodness and blessings to the neighbourhood and the world they live in. Thus, being in the same likeness and the same image also comes with the responsibility of a same calling: The calling to be fruitful and multiply. When we use the term, ‘made in the image of God,’ we are referring to our abilities to live not just the physical but in all other domains possible for man, mentally, spiritually and others. Idols and molten images cannot do that! Even modern technology despite its advances has failed to adequately replicate the basic human senses. Some humanists claim that the positive progress through the years indicate that the day will come, when one can achieve perfection. Unfortunately, history has shown that their path to progress has been littered with much imperfection. Every act of invention has their fair share of abuses. The movie Terminator paints for us a dark future in which the computer of the future starts to take over the world when it deems man as too unsuitable to lead.

2) Within the Limits
Adam was created (ברא, bara) in the image of God. Seth was conceived (ילד, yalad), through Adam and Eve in the image of man. Only God can create. While a son can achieve more than his earthly father, man cannot do more than the one who created him. The Tower of Babel debacle is an example of the folly of man, who refused to respect the limits of one’s ability. The evil folks of that day fail to recognize that while man is made in the image of God, they are NOT God. They can possess attributes of God, but they cannot take the place of God. Isn’t it mere folly to overestimate one’s ability? It is like trying to force a small bicycle to run like a SUV (sports-utility vehicle)! What then is the meaning of being made in the image of God?

3) Imago Dei (Latin=: Image of God)
Through the centuries, this term has been hotly debated by Roman Catholics and Protestants. This is made more complicated by the question of how much does sin impact this image. The following table is a short snippet of the various beliefs.

It would seem that despite the different views, all agree that sin has caused some kind of imperfection in the Imago Dei. Hence, it is important to recognize that our journey to God cannot be on the basis of our own strengths. It has to be through a perfect Mediator which is in Christ.
“For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
Christ is our Saviour, our Mediator and our link back to the true Imago Dei.

Concluding Thoughts
In summary, fathers not just in physical name, but in more ways than that. Fathers are limited in their abilities to be fatherly. They can only be the best father when they are connected to the Father in heaven. As one becomes connected to the Father in heaven, one becomes more like (צֶלֶם, tzelem) of God, rather than the (פֶּ֖סֶל, pesel) of idols.

Our fathers play an integral part of the whole creation process which started with Adam. Through the ages, fathers have been the channels through which the human race and families are continued. The question is: “How are we reflecting our true Imago Dei?” Knowing that our earthly fathers are not perfect, how do we go about becoming good fathers to our children? We cannot deny our fathers, no matter how they have treated us. Enshrined within the Ten Commandments is the call to obey our fathers and our mothers. Hence, to have a special day to honour our fathers is certainly within the will of God. As we do that, strangely, there is also another benefit. We recover our sense of identity that is related to our linkage and lineage. We recover a history of relationships that render meaning to the question: “Who am I?” We recover another opportunity to restore any bad or broken relationships with our fathers by remembering them in our hearts. We revive a healing hand. Take a trip back along memory lane to give thanks for our fathers. Our identity of who we are is intricately connected with ‘whose’ we are. We can claim a sense of belonging no other persons can have. It is something that defines what ‘family’ means. This June 21st 2009 is Father's Day. So go on:
  • In our hearts, learn to be grateful for our fathers;
  • In our heads, give thanks;
  • With our hands, pick up the phone, to call saying any or more of the following;
    - "I am sorry."
    - "I forgive you."
    - "I miss you."
    - "I remember you."
    - "I thank you."
    - "I love you."
  • If our fathers are gone from this world, remember a prayer. Give thanks.
Let me end with a very reflective collection of thoughts about what a father means for a person growing through the ages.

'Daddy' over the years
4 years: My Daddy can do anything!
7 years: My Dad knows a lot…a whole lot.
8 years: My father does not know quite everything.
12 years: Oh well, naturally Father does not know that either.
14 years: Oh, Father? He is hopelessly old-fashioned.
21 years: Oh, that man-he is out of date!
25 years: He knows a little bit about it, but not much.
30 years: I must find out what Dad thinks about it.
35 years: Before we decide, we will get Dad's idea first.
50 years: What would Dad have thought about that?
60 years: My Dad knew literally everything!
65 years: I wish I could talk it over with Dad once more.

(Source: Anonymous)


Incidentally, the name ‘Seth’ is also related to the word ‘compensation.’ Seth is actually a compensation for the loss of Abel. That does not mean his value is any less that he should whine about. Instead, his calling is highly important for he bridges the broken gap and enables the continuation of the family line that will enjoy the coming of the Saviour Lord Jesus.

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