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ALVEY: Jesus restores humanity to true image

By Jack Alvey | Alvey is the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Yesterday, many liturgical churches celebrated the life and ministry of Athanasius who served as the Bishop of Alexandria in the mid to late 4th century.

Athanasius came of age during the early 300s when Constantine legalized Christianity.

As the different groups of Christians started to come out of hiding, it became clear that not all thought alike.

In fact, many Christians were turned against each other over differences in theology, and Athanasius was at the center of one of the biggest debates during this time.

He debated Arius who concluded that Jesus was not God – only a creation of God with divine-like qualities.

At the end of the day, Athanasius won the argument by stating that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.

The Church proclaims this truth in the Nicene Creed when we say, “of one Being with the Father.”

At first glance, one might wonder why the church has shed so much blood, sweat and tears over making correct theological statements.

Does it really matter that Jesus was both God and human?

Does it really change things if he was simply a perfect man?

While I am no polished theologian, the implications of Jesus being both fully human and fully divine are huge.

In the humanity of Jesus, we are free to see the divine nature in us all. In other words, Jesus restores humanity to its true image.

In Jesus, we see who God intended us humans to be when God made us in God’s own image.

The implications of Athanasius’ theological statement on the nature of Christ not only direct how we see God but also how we see each other.

Like the writer of I John said, we cannot separate our love of God from our love of neighbor.

If we say we love God, then we must love our brothers and sisters for our God is both human and divine.

This past week in Montgomery at the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice the world was reminded of what happens when we do not see the image of God in all people especially in those who differ most from us.

Essentially, when we do not see the image of God in the other, we dehumanize them.

And when we dehumanize the other, we have the capacity to commit heinous acts against the other. Consequently, we dehumanize ourselves when we treat others as less than human.

The fully human and fully divine nature of Christ is how God opens our eyes to see in our humanity the image and likeness of God.

If we can see in ourselves and in others the likeness of God, then our eyes are opened to the value and preciousness of every human life.

Every life is of value – especially the lives of those whom society has deemed less than.

There is no doubt that we as human beings will continue to do terrible things to each other.

However, I am convinced if we see in the other the image of God, we will change how we live, how we love, how we forgive, how we confess, and how we show compassion.

If we see in the other the image of God, families and communities and even nations will be open to the transformation that happens by the dwelling of Christ in every human heart.

On this day, may we give thanks for a God who restores the human image in us all by dwelling in us and among us in Jesus Christ. Amen.