Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo’

God in our image

January 16, 2011

Today’s sermon, which I’ll post later this week, was on the second commandment:

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In the sermon I reflected on the various ways in which we commit idolatry these days. They are legion, even though we don’t literally bow down to them or worship them.

I also tried to reconcile these words regarding jealousy and punishment with the idea that the Ten Commandments are a gift from a loving God. In context, both jealousy—the kind of jealously guarded love that defines a relationship between wives and husbands—and punishment are completely compatible with love. More than that, if God weren’t “jealous” and didn’t punish for sin, God would be less than loving.

I said the following about God’s hatred of sin:

Granted, if we were creating a god in our image, we wouldn’t create the kind of God we have. We would want our god to shrug his shoulders and say, “It’s no big deal. You’re only human. Everyone makes mistakes. Besides, the important thing is that you be true to yourself. Do what you want. I’ll make sure there are no consequences.” But that kind of god would hate us if that were his attitude toward sin.

Creating God in our image… How often do we risk doing this? It doesn’t help that we have this famously beautiful—although theologically troubling—depiction of God’s creating humanity in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting. I’m not sure how this painting doesn’t violate both the letter and spirit of the second (or, if you’re Catholic or Lutheran, first) commandment.

I'm uncomfortable with this image of God as the "old man in the sky." (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

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