-Paintings by Akiane Kramarik
So God created mankind in his own image.
— Genesis 1:27
Not long ago, a friend sent me a short account of a most remarkable missionary, Samuel Zwemer, who became known as the “Apostle to Islam.” My curiosity was piqued enough that I took the time to look up the full article printed in the “International Journal of Frontier Missions.” What I discovered was the story of a family wholly dedicated to God.
Shortly after Samuel’s birth in Michigan in 1867, his mother dedicated him to the Lord with a prayer that he might grow up to be a missionary. As the boy grew, he became an ardent student of the Bible setting aside one hour each day for prayer and devotions. He even read the Scriptures in a different language every day of the week to better prepare himself for going wherever the Lord might choose to send him.
During Samuel’s senior year at college, a missionary home on furlough from his labors in the field presented the urgent need to share the good news of Jesus Christ in his adopted homeland of India. To make his point, he placed a metronome on a table in front of a large map of India and explained that each time the chronometer ticked back and forth, one person died there without ever hearing about Jesus Christ.
It is likely that Samuel’s mother had also prayed a prayer of dedication over his older brother, Peter, for he, too, grew up with a keen passion for missions and later accepted an assignment to minister to the Muslim population in Muscat, Oman. The story is told that while there, Peter learned of the plight of 35 African boys detained onboard a slave ship the British Navy successfully captured. Now that the children were safe, however, the authorities weren’t quite sure what to do with them. Peter seized upon the opportunity, and without hesitation, made the Navy an offer. He would take them off their hands and establish an orphanage right there in Oman to house them. Peter did as he promised and continued to work tirelessly among the people in his beloved adopted homeland until his death.
Many years later, Samuel traveled back to the land where his brother had served and was now buried. While preaching in Arabic one day, he spoke of a great man, the Savior of the world, whom he longed for them to meet. Suddenly, one man interrupted him by insisting the people had already met this Jesus. “No,” Samuel responded. “That is not possible because He lived 2,000 years ago.” “We know him!” another man called out with insistence. To prove his point, he proceeded to describe the man they knew. This man, he explained, had compassion for people, and went around doing good things for them. Why, he said, this great man even gave his life for those he served. Imagine Samuel’s shock when he finally realized they were describing his very own brother Peter who had personified the Savior so well that the Muslims mistook him for Jesus himself.
While the Bible tells us that all are made in His image, not all reflect His nature and character as well as Peter. This is because sin has shattered the image of God in us causing us to be distorted image-bearers. The good news of Jesus Christ, however, is that regardless of whether we are as the beloved children’s Sunday school song reminds us, red and yellow, black or white, we are all precious in His sight. How amazing that the God of the universe is so relational that He cares deeply for each and every person no matter their color, race or status in life. Indeed, as the early Christian theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo once said, God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him. Said differently, our hearts are restless until we experience Christ in such intimacy that we actually reflect His nature and character to a lost a dying world.
Regardless of where we are, what we have done, or even what has been done to us, God sees us as beautiful, redeemed, righteous. In truth, His unfathomable love sees us as we were made to be; reflections of Him. “Consider this,” R. K. Hughes says, “Though you could travel a hundred times the speed of light, past countless yellow-orange stars, to the edge of the galaxy and swoop down to the fiery glow located a few hundred light-years below the plane of the Milky Way, though you could slow to examine the host of hot young stars luminous among the gas and dust…though you could witness a star’s birth, in all your stellar journeys you would never see anything equal to the birth and wonder of a human being,” (Genesis: Beginning and Blessing). The words of an old hymn remind us of the insurmountable love that gives us new life:
“Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh how He loves you and me. He gave his life,
what more could he give?Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how
he loves you and me. Jesus to Calvary did go, His love for sinners to show. What
He did there brought hope from despair. Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves
me; Oh, how he loves you and me.”
(©1975 Word Music, LLC)
No matter how wrecked our lives may be, the Savior desires to mold each one of us into more accurate reflections of Him. This can only be accomplished by a process of sanctification in which the Holy Spirit works to pull us away from the power and love of sin. By daily renewing ourselves through meditating on His Word and putting that Word into action, we will be gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ. The Spirit works by reorienting all our desires until we are more alive than we ever thought possible (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). We can become what our Creator made us to be: His image bearers! As we look at the world around us, may we believe that within each person there is the image of Christ just waiting to be revealed.
Heavenly Father, may we present our bodies as a living sacrifice. May we not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but choose, instead, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we will be able to carry out Your will for us. Amen.
— Francine Thomas