Posted by: edsohn | September 2, 2008

In The Image Of God

The main character in Crime & Punishment, Raskolnikov, conducts an experiment to discover whether or not he can transcend the moral code of human society for what is, in his mind, a greater good. In cold blood, he kills a detestable pawnbroker, eliminating a terrible person from society. The rest of the novel outlines his dysfunctional relationships, people who affirm or rebuke his mentality, and the inner emotional terror following his heinous act of murder. He never saw it coming.

A great question to ask (and it’s been a while since I’ve picked up this classic, to see how it is addressed) is WHY? What inside of him caused him to commit this act in the first place? Why does he suffer so much internal conflict as a result?

Psychology, the study of human thought and behavior, is a valuable subject matter that can help us understand why we are the way we are, as shaped by our genetics and environment. But if you don’t mind getting a little spiritual here, the truth is simply this:

Raskolnikov is human, and created in the image of God. And we too have an origin, an eternal original mold, by which our finite existence echoes an infinite prototype.

From my year-end post from last December, something that stuck with me this year is the idea that our emotions are a reflection of the image of God. I’m not talking about our motives, or the objects of our emotions, because in those, God is easily holy and totally distinguishable from how we are. He hates injustice; we hate suffering. He is somewhat apathetic to that which is temporary, but we can’t help but to suffer over the trifles of our day while showing apathy to the future. He is gracious and compassionate to the undeserving; we are rewarding and kind to who we think deserves our energy.

Nevertheless, God hates, and we hate. God loves, and we love. God cares and doesn’t care, and we also care and don’t care. God is loving and supportive, and we are loving and supportive as well. Our emotions REFLECT God’s emotions.

  • When I get road rage because someone cut me off, it’s a tiny glimpse into the righteous anger God feels for those who unjustly oppress and hurt the weak.
  • When I feel massive heartbreak, even if it’s for a stupid human purpose, I can get a glimpse of how God’s heart breaks.
  • When I am deeply troubled because my friends are suffering through depression, pain and self-flagellation even though I see a potential for courage and strength and beauty, I get a glimpse of how torn-up God is when we lack faith and so easily lay down our destiny to look like Him.
  • When I see the faces of children enslaved to the oppression of forced labor or poverty or disease, I resonate with God’s compassion for the cries He hears from His people.
  • When I delight in the joy of my loved ones, I get a glimpse of the delight that fills God’s heart, a measure in the resounding choir of angels rejoicing when a human soul chooses eternal life.

I’m not trying to validate our negative emotions or our desires to rebel from God’s plan for our lives. I’m not trying to justify feeling angry simply because anger echoes in how God is. But I think that beyond noting an interesting theory of Christian psychological and emotional trends, there’s something very REAL that we can conclude:

We can identify with God, even when life is going to shit.  We’re emotional because God is emotional.

There’s something comforting about knowing this. Not comfortable, but comforting. Knowing this isn’t a feel-goody happy-go-lucky warm-fuzzy self-righteousness blessing of piety that shines like the morning sun. It’s not a romanticized dramatic self-importance. But even when God seems so far from being real, when we are lost in pools of negativity, we cannot escape that our hearts are comprised of the stuff that is in God’s own personality. The stuff of the creation is shaped after the stuff of our creator. Humans didn’t invent the concepts of God; God invented the concepts of humanity and patterned them after Himself.

In our darkest hours, sometimes that’s really worth knowing, because as much as being human feels like complete failure at times, it’s reassuring to know that we are not cut from bad cloth.



  1. Thanks for this post. I particularly appreciated this: “Humans didn’t invent the concepts of God; God invented the concepts of humanity and patterned them after Himself.”

    Isn’t it so funny how we tend to think of it as the other way around? In grad school, I’d sit in classes where we’d go for hours determining what we believed to be the concepts and characteristics of God and then walk away feeling very proud of ourselves for having “figured him out.” hahaha

    And you’re right. It is comforting to know we come from someone far greater than ourselves.

  2. absolutely agree with you on this one. this is where our passion for such things speaks louder than our nature and dna. no other creature on the planet has the power to empathize or have a sense of justice that we do, and in my point of view, this is the reason why the matter of God will simply not go away. as c.s. lewis might say, our appetites and our longings anticipates their satisfaction. and if our material world does not satisfy them, we must leave room for God.

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