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Trusting the Divine Image and Likeness

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Image and Likeness: Summary

Trusting the Divine Image and Likeness
Wednesday, December 26, 2018

In the practical order, we find our Original Goodness, the image of God that we are, when we can discover and own the faith, hope, and love deeply planted within us:

A trust in inner coherence itself. “It all means something!” (Faith)
A trust that this coherence is positive and going somewhere good. (Hope)
A trust that this coherence includes me and even defines me. (Love)

This is the soul’s foundation. That we are capable of such trust and surrender is the objective basis for human goodness and holiness, and it almost needs to be re-chosen day by day lest we continue to slide toward cynicism, victim playing and making, or self-pity. No philosophy or government, no law or reason, can fully promise or offer us this attitude, but the Gospel can and does. Healthy religion shares a compelling and attractive foundation for human goodness and dignity and shows us ways to build on that foundation.

Being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) gives everyone an equal and inherent dignity. However, in every age and culture, we have seen regressions toward racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, ableism, and classism. This pattern tells me that unless we see dignity as being given universally, objectively, and from the beginning by God, we humans will constantly think it is up to us to decide. But this tragic history demonstrates that one group cannot be trusted to portion out worthiness and dignity to another. Our criteria tend to be self-referential and thus highly prejudiced, and the powerless and the disadvantaged always lose out. Even the United States’ aspirational Declaration of Independence—which states that “all men [originally meaning white, property-owning males] are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”—has not empowered marginalized groups to apportion those rights equally.

For the planet and for all living beings to move forward, we can rely on nothing less than an inherent original goodness and a universally shared dignity. Only then can we build, because the foundation is strong, and is itself good. Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to “dig and dig deep, and build your house on rock” (Luke 6:48). When we start with yes (or a positive vision), we are more likely to proceed with generosity and hope, and we have a much greater chance of ending with an even bigger yes, which we would call “resurrection.”

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 66-67.

Image credit: Venus (detail), 2008
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The true and essential work of all religion is to help us recognize and recover the divine image in everything. —Richard Rohr
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