One day God took a walk through His universe looking for something that was lost. It wasn’t “lost” in the sense that He didn’t know where it was—it was lost because it had run from Him and lost itself among the numberless heavenly bodies. And it was so tiny that someone less than God couldn’t have found it with a search warrant and a torch as big as a constellation.
And He came across it, a little planet lying, bleeding, in a galactic ditch, dying of deep self-inflicted wounds that had been urged on, as Genesis tells us, by a liar and a thief and a murderer. And He said to that little world (not as a silly teaching claims—only to a tiny segment of it), “I’ve come to save you, to bring you home to My heart for out of love I have made you in My own image.”
God’s seeking and finding the wayward human family wasn’t done in a moment. It was a structured search that was (and is) worked out in accordance with God’s eternal loving holiness and wisdom and it was developed over the ages in this way and that, through this person or that people. It came (and has come) to its completion in the person and work of Jesus Christ and is borne witness to by the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) that indwells the body of Christ, the Church.
God allowed the nations to follow their own ways even though this meant they dismissed Him. But He didn’t wash his hands of the human family and continued to bless them with fruitful seasons and joy of heart (Acts 14:16). He insisted in staying near the human family down the ages, blessing them so that they might look for Him and find Him (Acts 17:25-28). Beyond all that, God entered the world in and as Jesus Christ. The ages prior to that event—in comparison to the brightness of the new self-revelation—were times of ignorance (Acts 17:30—the NIV is misleading here). Past judgments and prophetic messages to the nations called the nations to repentance but this new self-revelation of God was and is a more searching and incisive condemnation of the sins of the human family. Sodom and Gomorrah was a judgment on our evil but Jesus Christ and His cross was the fullest possible exposure of our sin.
But the coming of God in and as Jesus Christ was not simply to expose our sinfulness, it was to rescue and redeem. In Jesus Christ—who is the image of God—we see the love of God and neighbor as God views it. In Jesus Christ God was getting what he fully merited—He was loved without reservation. But in Jesus Christ the love of neighbor was also revealed as being in God’s image. As Jesus Christ has loved (and loves) humans we see the love of God for humans. God’s gift to all of sunshine and rain “hinted” (so the speak) what in the person and work of Jesus Christ is demonstrated (compare 1 John 3:16 and 4:14-16). In Jesus Christ we can see and say, “See how God loves all the fallen.”
And is the love of God as it has expressed itself in and through the incarnate Jesus Christ the same love of God that the Godhead enjoyed in its fellowship prior to creation and the incarnation? If it is, then Edmond Jacob was right when he said that in creating us in his own image God was loving us as he loved Himself. And if God has eternally purposed us to look like Jesus Christ who is His express image (charakter and eikon) how can Jacob be wrong? God cannot do otherwise than to love the highest He knows, and He is the highest He knows. He loves Himself (not in that silly and vain way that we’re so capable of) and in making us and renewing in us His own image as it is seen in Jesus Christ He is loving us and He loves Himself.
And if we love God as He has loved us and love our neighbors as He has loved them then the love of God for us shapes the whole loving, cosmic enterprise.
Marvelous mystery—one might be tempted to think that it was God Himself on the road to Jericho, traveling from afar to rescue a little planet dying in a galactic ditch.