Thursday, August 15, 2019

Youth and the Image of God


Jesus’s last moments with His disciples are some of the most powerful and sobering moments during His ministry on Earth. While these moments are recorded throughout all four of the Gospels, the book of John in particular places the Last Supper in Chapters 13 through 17. By the time we get to Chapter 17, two notable things have already occurred: first, Jesus has asked His disciples to love one another as He has loved them (for there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends); and second, He has told the disciples who the Holy Spirit is and that He is arriving soon.

After these powerful statements are made by Jesus, we arrive at John 17:21 where on behalf of those who believe in Him, He asks God “that they may all be one.” While this is an incredible statement for the larger church, it is especially powerful for the youth ministry of today.

Referring back to Genesis 1:27, the Bible says that we were made in the image of God. When we have a desire to connect with others, to share lives with one another, or to love one another, it’s not that hard to see why. After all, we were made in the image of a God who exemplifies perfect relationship and oneness within the Trinity. In other words, God was in relationship before the universe and humans were even created. And what makes John 17:21 so powerful is that Jesus says we have the ability to experience a level of relationship with others that exhibits characteristics similar to the Trinity.

Especially prevalent in today’s youth culture, the emptiness that students may be feeling in the soul is commonly referred to as a God-sized hole in our heart, because the only person that can possibly fill such a void is God Himself. Should we attempt to fill it with the finite and other short-term moments of happiness, we will forever find ourselves disappointed and lost. After all, our craving for joy will never be satisfied by a quick fix of happiness, and as we all know from Solomon, overstimulation inevitably turns into numbness (Ecclesiastes 2:1).  Indeed, the only way we no longer feel purposelessness, no longer feel shame, and no longer feel lost is by receiving the gift of eternal salvation that the Lord has given to us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Accepting the gift of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice helps us understand better the principle that we are made in the image of God, and realizing that we are made in the image of God adds to the desire to genuinely connect with others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we lay down our lives for our friends. As a result, engaging in relationship with one another becomes a natural outgrowth of our lives. While secular individuals may be able to build noteworthy friendships, they are not based on the example of unconditional love that Jesus calls us to. This applies especially for our youth in cases where a digital connection is mistaken for genuine relationship. In the youth ministry of today, it becomes critical for the church to help students understand this nuance. After all, it is only because of God that we can build relationships with others that stand through the trials of this life, because only God Himself has already conquered such trials.


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