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Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity by Jim Palmer



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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Jim Palmer

Tuesday, November 9

So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created mankind; male and female he created them.
—Genesis 1:27


As a human being walking planet earth, I’m starting to learn some things. For example, if I’m open, I can learn something valuable from virtually any person I encounter, regardless of how different they are from me. Asking questions, getting to know someone, and listening to another’s story seem to always stimulate growth in me in some way.

There are certain things all humans hold in common that transcend ethnic, political, lifestyle, and even religious differences. All people deep down want to be loved, know truth, have meaning, and be free. We all carry the image of God within us, and no matter how dull our awareness, the Spirit seeks to awaken every soul to its true identity in God.

Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Whatever else these words of Jesus might be saying, I wonder if they could mean, “Come together in love, and esteem others with the value Christ places on all people. In so doing, you are opening an avenue for the Spirit to work in you and them.”

A person’s true spiritual identity may be buried deep beneath the surface. The image of God within may not be easily recognizable in people suffering from hurt, fear, emptiness, callousness, anger, or apathy. I recently struck up a conversation with a woman at a retreat center. I stepped outside for some fresh air and saw her sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette. 

One of the first things I noticed about her was a long green tattoo of a hideous beast running down the length of her calf. She asked me about the book I was working on, and in so doing began to share her own heartache and pain and her search for God. Suddenly, she wished me luck, tossed her cigarette to the ground, and went back inside.

It saddened me that I had no further opportunity to speak with the woman. It frustrated me that, distracted by a cigarette and tattoo, I had failed to focus on her true identity as an image bearer of God. Maybe if I had looked past my own preconceptions and instead affirmed the truth of who she really is, she would have been one step closer to discovering that truth for herself.

Today God I will have all kinds of interactions with different people along the paths of life; let my attitude, words, and actions be a mirror in which others will see the truth of their identity in you.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.