"Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst." So went the advertising slogan for Sprite that I still remember decades later. How far from the truth that is in our modern culture. In our society image is everything and nothing else really matters. Oh we may trumpet soundbites like 'Be true to yourself', 'Be the you you really want to be' and so on. But they come with subtle small print, and the small print says only be true to yourself if that fits with societies values and norms, with the you society will accept. Don't be true to yourself if you don't, hide, suppress, repress.
Image has become everything. I've been watching the Olympics and amidst all the great sport and phenomenal athleticism and dedication I've been heartbroken to see athlete's vilified and victimised for not portraying the right image. Not having your hand on your heart when you sing your anthem, letting disappointment show, not having the right hair, or look and so on. If people don't fit in with our media massaged and manipulated view of norms or right then we jump all over them. We seem to forget that these are real people dealing with real emotions and four years (or a life time) of dedication and expectation, hopes and dreams. Let alone the more fundamental truth that these are people made in God's image.
It has struck me again whilst I have watched with a sense of sadness athletes being attacked on social media for not fitting the image, not doing the done thing, not meeting others expectations of how they should react, that it shouldn't surprise me at all. It is what disciples of Jesus should expect everyday. I think of Daniel and his friends taking a stand for their faith in Babylon and the pressure they faced for not fitting in, not conforming. And then tragically I think of Esther who hides her faith and does conform, for whom image is everything, at least initially. But then I am reminded of the grace of God that transformed a wretch like Esther to save his people.
And that challenge hits me again. The call to stand out, the call to live having experienced and drunk deeply of the water of life that Christ brings and to hold that out to others. Knowing that it is what they really long for no matter what society says. That image doesn't matter as much as the reality for which God has made them. And that as people made in the image of God I am called to loved each and everyone of them and call them back to that image redeemed in Christ.