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During the Typika service (where there is no priest to serve Liturgy), the passage on the Sheep and Goats Judgement was read out. What stuck out to me was the notion of that what we did to the least of these, we do to Christ. I don’t think this can be separated from the image of God in the individual. The potential for Christ likeness and partaking in the divine life, is the inherent goal for which everyone was created. True the fall has damaged our capacity, but it has not removed it. The image which is the potential remains, though the likeness doesn’t live up to it. But nevertheless because people are made in the image of God, they all have this dignity and worth that can never be taken away (Genesis 9:6).
Paul goes further in 2 Corinthians 5:15-16 says that we don’t consider people from a fleshly standpoint anymore. Not because they are made in God’s image, but because Christ died and rose again for them. So that they might live for Him. Live to actualize their God-given image. This image is far more than just character, but everything that God is in His Glory, which we are created to partake in (2 Peter 1:4). Christ united Himself to all humans by His incarnation. Defeating death, He has opened the door of immortality to all people. So all human nature is redeemed, but individuals must still choose to be personally transformed and partake of Christ’s own divine life (righteousness). Those who do will be prepared to meet God, having conformed their likeness to His image. God’s glory will be a source of great joy to them. But those who have chose to reject Christ’s righteousness will still exist forever but unprepared to partake of the unrestrained Glory of God which will fill all creation. This will be experienced by them as a consuming fire. Not because God has changed His love and goodness towards them, but they have not changed to experience it as such.
With that in mind, three things can be seen:
So our own salvation, which is none other than participating in the divine life counts on and is reflected upon how treat others. Since how can we be Christ like and not be like Christ? We cannot love Him and not love those whom He loves. 1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” And before some says this is limited to loving other Christians only, the mandate to love our neighbour knows of no distinction. C.S Lewis in “The Weight of Glory” really captures the gravitas of this situation:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
Everyone person on the planet is important. Every. Single. One.
And yes I can count, I know earlier I said there were three inferences that could be drawn. Which brings me to my final point:
3. By being made in the divine image, I have dignity and am loved not because of what I do but because of who I am. Who I am supposed to be. And despite my flaws, Christ’s death and resurrection show that he is fully committed to having me restored and join in on His divine Trinitarian life forever.
Christ identifies with me. He identifies with you. He is fully committed to me personally. To you personally. His humanity is forever united to ours. He is calling anyone who will come, to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28) and enjoy all that He has to offer (John 10:10). There’s room at the table. Won’t you come?
“Know to what extent the Creator has honoured you above all the rest of creation. The sky is not an image of God, nor is the moon, nor the sun, nor the beauty of the stars, nor anything of what can be seen in creation. You alone have been made in the image of the Reality that transcends all understanding, the likeness of the imperishable beauty, the imprint of true divinity, the recipient of beatitude, the seal of true light. When you turn to him you become that which he is himself… There is nothing so great among beings that it can be compared with your greatness.” [St Gregory of Nyssa, Second Homily on the Song of Songs](mid to late 4th century)