Here’s Looking at You

“Here’s looking at you,” was a toast used in 1884 in Ballou’s Monthly Magazine, quoted again famously in the movie Casablanca.  A quote from the book, The Harrow, in 1889 reads; “Here’s looking at you.” “Yes, through a glass darkly.”

We look at a lot of people in our lifetimes.  Often we share the raising of a glass in order to wish someone the best in life, even though we can’t see the future clearly, or even a person fully.    

I saw a lot of people in very brief encounters over the last week as I was on a road trip down South.  This was my view at breakfast on Wednesday morning: a genuine New Orleans street band playing in front of a café full of people.  And I got a front row seat.  The band played songs like ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee’, and the lead singer had a voice like Louis Armstrong, and could play the trumpet, too.  Sitting in the warm sunshine, eating a beignet, and hearing the Dixieland jazz music made my day! 

I got to look at a vast variety of people this week: the band members at breakfast, young and old, as they took turns at solos and played to the delight of the crowd; the young children who played with toys at the car museum, while a parent took in the unique styles and models of cars, motorcycles and airplanes; the young Southern cashier in Mississippi who politely said ‘yes ma’am’ as he took my order; various police officers in Louisiana from different areas of duty who were enjoying a lunch break together; the woman at the tiny candy shop who explained how her husband used the machine at the back of the store each day to make the confection creations that smelled (and tasted) amazing; the old woman who spent her day near Jackson square reading palms for a pittance, leaving her work table for a nearby restaurant table accompanied by her aging dog; the young and heavily tattooed woman whose eyes were bright and cheery as she served drinks to customers; the homeless man sound asleep on the corner with his dog held tightly in his arms, (who was also sleeping); the tourists, young and old, getting bombarded with offers and requests as they walked the tiny streets of the French Quarter; the soft spoken server in Biloxi who told the story of when Katrina hit the coast; the tired travelers as they got gasoline at midnight on the way to their destination… I wish them all well in their endeavors in life.  ‘Here’s looking at you.’  And each of them made an impression on me based on their image. 

What does the image of God look like?  In Genesis 1:26, God speaks (to himself? to those in his throne room?)  And says, “Let us make man in our image, as our likeness…”  At the time this text was written, the people of the other nations of the world had man-made temples that contained images and likenesses of their gods that were just lifeless pieces of engraved wood or stone.  The narrative of Genesis calls attention to YHWH as the God who is not confined or bound—the entire earth is his temple, and all the people he created are living, breathing representatives of what he looks like. 

It’s astounding, really.  There’s no way to confine God to a box, or to define him by any one standard of person.  He is all people combined, and yet, God of all of them.  And then, of all things, God became flesh, and let himself be confined to a human body and all its distinctions: Jesus had hair, eyes, feet and smelly armpits.  He felt pain, could sing, worked with his hands, and had relationships with people.  Jesus was the image of the invisible God. (Col. 1:15) He was God on earth interacting with all of his likeness, and surrounded by all the varying aspects of humanity.

But looks aren’t everything.  Physical appearance is only part of our image.  Just because people are made in the image of God does not mean that they act like God.  There are people who are beautiful on the outside and have hearts that are black with malice, hateful speech, and atrocious actions.  Even Jesus experienced that.  Our actions, our speech, and our lifestyle give a clearer picture of who we are.  The Apostle Paul says the ones now defined as God’s people are those who have ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.’ (Colossians 3:10)  Being in the image of God is not about ethnicity, social situations, or outward appearance.  We look like God when we act like God.

Even though I enjoyed seeing a mosaic of different people this week, and experiencing acts of kindness, the world is admittedly a messed up place.  Certainly I can be sweet and kind one minute and blow up in anger on the next…God’s still working on me.  And that’s the whole idea.   My looks don’t give me favor with God, but neither do my actions on their own.  God graciously presents me with a new way of life that I can access when I pledge allegiance to Jesus, and live in the manner that he did, loyal to YHWH and his ways. 

This morning I’m thankful for the diversity on this planet; that God is represented everywhere on earth, in a potpourri of people that are remarkable, and yet ordinary.  I look back at God’s entrance to this world through Jesus, and am reminded that he paved the way for what it means to be a human who images God—with his body, with his actions, through his life, and even in his death.  It’s a lofty thing to try and emulate him.  But we have a guarantee, that with the Spirit of God working in us, someday …’just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.’  (1 Cor. 15:49)

One day we won’t see through a glass darkly—but will see God face to face.

Until then, ‘here’s looking at you’!


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