Up to this point in my series, I have suggested that submission to God and his evaluative perspective is inextricably bound to the flourishing of his image in us.
Demonstrations of this, authenticating true submission, can vary, but they often need some kind of affirmation. This is to say, scripture itself does not always provide a clear command, exhortation, or principle by which a particular manifestation of submission, claimed to be a reflection of God’s image, can be proven as such.Thus, a human standard may be applied that is, ideally, a synthesis of biblical principles or is a construction of proper theological categories. Many, however, are aware that appeals to God and his will have been used by some to dehumanize other image-bearers, to put them into various forms of bondage and to marginalize them. Such harmful endeavors would radically hinder manifestations of image-bearing, not to mention hindering any possibility of image-flourishing.
Frederick Douglass, for example, would chastise an audience in Rochester, New York, during the city’s Fourth of July celebration:
“What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot.” (“What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” July 5, 1852 in Great Speeches by African Americans [Kindle Version, Loc 465])
Many other theologians, particularly of the Black and Womanist theological camps, would raise similar concerns. Appeals to the divine have been used to kill and to subjugate! What, then, is the motivation and the goal of my appeal to submit to God to facilitate true image-flourishing when the dangers of greed and abuse are so real even for the contemporary directors of government, industry and land ownership?
I want to pursue some thought on this question with the next reflection because I do hold that image-flourishing is dependent upon submission to God and his evaluative perspective. Suffice it here to invite the reader to a walk on a thin red line as indicated by the following scripture passages:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom.8:37)
Suffering is sometimes a part of authentic submission to God. Paradoxically, the Lord also makes believers “more than conquerors” through the Lord Jesus Christ. I mention the “thin red line” at this point to caution those who may think that a situation is only “of the Lord” if it removes an individual, or group, from all forms of dehumanization and suffering. I believe that God wants his image-bearers to flourish, but again, what does this mean? What should it look like?