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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

December 1, 2017

Symbolic "images"

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

My mother told me that of her 8 children I and my oldest brother were the ones who gave her the most grief (I was the 5th of her children). She told me once: "It's good that there is only one copy of you." She probably would have identified with a message on a public church message board in America: "Don't try to make someone else in your own image, because you are unique and the other person is, too."

To make an image – that reminds us of the 2nd commandment, which tells us: "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything" (Deuteronomy 5:8; NIV). In our modern western world it is pretty unlikely that anyone would make an image and worship it, as a substitute for God.

But perhaps we make images by analogy when we make an "image" of someone who doesn't match our personal expectations. Most likely we know people who don't meet our expectations and we disapprove of them. If they would change – and correspond to our "image" of them, what we think they should be – then there wouldn't be any disapproval.

Have you ever hat an "image of people – perhaps an entire group? Foreigners, Turks, Moslems, conservatives, leftists, women drivers, etc.? If we have such group images, we are lumping everyone in that group according to our image, and often that image is a negative one.

More than 40 years the doorbell rang at our office door in Düsseldorf. We used one side of the floor as our office, and there was an insurance agency across from us on the other side of the same floor. I opened our office door only to see the receptionist of the insurance agency standing in the entrance of her office. A southern European foreigner stood in front of her, holding some papers he wanted to show her. It was obvious that he did not speak German well enough to make himself understood. The receptionist was very irritated and told me in a loud voice: "Help me get rid of him, I can't stand foreigners!" It's odd that she asks me for help, I thought. (The man then left on his own.)

And about just as many years ago a member of our church went to his car after attending services. The car was parked in a large garage. Despite several attempts, the car would not start. A southern European who was getting his car on the same floor saw what happened and come over to our member. "Car no go, I help you!", he said, and got a jumper cable. His help worked and the car started.

"You shall not make for yourself an image", couldn't that mean in a symbolic way: "Don't jump to conclusions so quckly about others"? To judge someone according to our image – the way we think he/she should be – could be a reflection of prejudice. Jesus tells us: "Love your neighbor as yourself." We don't want others to judge us according to their image, and we shouldn't do it, either.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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