Jesus concretized God. Man is supposed to concretize Jesus.
When God created the universe and the earth, he did not consider it to be complete unless he gave the creation a way to know him and what he is like. God is a real person. He is invisible, yet concrete. But to most of us he is more of an abstraction. We can’t see him. We can only see evidence of him. His kingdom, the kingdom of God, is such an abstraction that Jesus never explicitly defines it, rather saying what it is like: a mustard seed, a man on a trip, a father with two sons…
But in the days of creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Not being a Hebrew scholar myself, I can look up the word and see that the word God uses for image is the same as that of idol. The kind of thing we are not to do, make an image of God to worship it, God has already done in man, not so that we could worship it, but so that we and the rest of the creation could know something of what God is like.
In man in his unbroken, un-fallen state, we can see what God is like. He may have been only a concept before, but now he is concrete. Righteousness is an abstraction, but the way man was called to live on the earth was concrete. The same goes for holiness, justice, and love. To see these abstractions in a concrete reality, one should be able to look at any human on the earth.
But that is not what we get from looking at humans on the earth, because the image is broken. Now, to try to see what God is like from looking at his creatures will be misleading, to say the least. God is love; we hate all the time. God is joyful; we are often depressed. God is purposeful; we are purposeless much of the time. God is selfless; we are selfish. God is truth; we are liars.
Because of this difficulty, humans who wanted to know God had to do the best they could by looking at the best of humans, the goodness of creation (broken though it was), and studying the law he gave to Moses with their depraved minds and experimenting with ways to keep it.
So, understandably, by the time Jesus arrived on the earth, there was much confusion about what the Father was truly like. But when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14), the world got a clear picture. Philip said to Jesus, “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn 14:8-10)? Philip was a disciple of Jesus. Imagine the confusion of those who would oppose Jesus.
Nonetheless, Jesus came and restored the image of God in man, by showing the Father by his life and his own nature, which was the Father’s nature. In 1 Corinthians 11:3 it says that the head of Christ is God, and the head of man is Christ.
Our Part in Concretizing the Abstraction
Once again, the world is faced with the problem of abstraction. Many things are said of Christ, and he has been portrayed in many ways, some more faithfully than others. The Church has the responsibility of being the body of Christ, the physical expression of him in this age. Christian men and women who make up the Church are also called to continually grow in their capacity to image Christ and so image the Father.
I like what happens in Acts 4:13:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
I pray that others could see my boldness and my actions, my commonness, and recognize that I am with Jesus! I pray that for you too.
Here is how Jesus said it: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
Boldness and love are two of the ways in which we can demonstrate the image of Christ and his Father in us, and these we display by receiving the free gift of life in Christ on the cross, and by walking according to his Spirit that he has put in us.
Then, when they recognize you are different, that you have “been with Jesus,” share the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (Ro 1:16).