Thursday, September 1, 2011

Image Consultants

“For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son…"Romans 8:29a

“God wants to make you like Jesus,” I explained to Sima. “Really? Is that possible?” she asked incredulously. The thought of being made like Jesus captured her attention. She was familiar with how Muslims try to become like their prophet or his wives, copying how he dressed, walked, talked, fasted, prayed, fought, offered hospitality, etc. Trying to portray the exact image is highly desirable. When I began preparing for magazine, radio and television interviews I heard about image consultants being available. Whose image was I exactly to represent, I wondered? So much is about portraying a powerful impressive image before others in order to get big sales or a following. There are an abundance of media and religious image consultants offering to transform us in to somebody important.

One of the most painful things a person can experience is shame. We all desire to reveal our good image rather than reveal shameful things. In the early years of witnessing to Muslim women I wanted to portray an image that I was a “good Christian”; probably because many Muslims have negative impressions of Christians. The image they might have of us is that we are immoral, drink alcohol, are immodest, believe in three gods and are associated with the historical Crusaders of by gone days. I wanted my Muslim friends to know I prayed, went to church, gave to charity, did good deeds, dressed modestly  and was moral. Subconsciously, I guess I was actually trying to prove I was just as religious or as good as Muslims – or more. Like it was some kind of contest or upmanship. Human beings, which includes myself, can be deceitfully proud of our moral conduct and religious practices. I didn’t want to divulge sinful things or shameful secrets. Muslims seldom do so I followed suit. I don’t remember exactly when that image portrayal of being the "good Christian" shattered. I guess it was when I realized evangelism is not about portraying how superior our faith is or how good we are but how sinful we are and how God can rescue us and change us. Over time I began to share some of the bad things I have done. Believe me, that is not easy to do with Muslims! I was shocked to witness their responsiveness. I thought they wouldn’t want to associate with me. But no, it has captured something deep within them – a yearning to be assured that God would love them and forgive them even if they have done sinful things, too. Grace has got to be the most beautiful word in the world. I really feel like I have been set free to only be concerned about my one image consultant, the heavenly Father. He’s changing me to become like Jesus. Amazing! Some of my friends are serving God in Afghanistan. Their goal is stated simply: to be like Jesus. Beautiful! I want that to be my goal, too.

Dear heavenly Father, I long for the image of Jesus to be seen through me. Amen.