Namaste & Imago Dei

Namaste & Imago Dei

As a follower of Christ, I have spent much time in study and prayer over my yoga practice.  I have sought the counsel of my pastor, my elders, my accountability group, and my husband. I have not glazed over the controversy that surrounds Christians practicing yoga.  I have put my love of yoga on the altar of God for him to take from me if it did not bring him Glory.

Instead, what I have found is that God has given me innumerable opportunities to talk about the Love of God, which is Christ, from my yoga mat.  He has shown me that he is El Elyon, the most High God, and that he is in the business of revealing himself in this world (Genesis 14).  In fact, I have even found God’s truth woven throughout many of the teachings and the sacred texts of ancient yoga philosophy.

One such example is the greeting “Namaste” used frequently at the beginning and end of a yoga practice. In this gesture, hands are held in prayer position at the heart center, eyes are closed, and the head is bowed as a sign of mutual respect between teacher and student.  The Sanskrit word, Namaste, broken down into its roots means: Namah (bow) as (I) te (you). It literally means “I bow to you.”  and is also translated as ‘the divine Light in me honors the divine Light in you’.

Some Christians find this greeting to be controversial because, when taken literally, this might imply that we are bowing and worshipping each other as gods. It is not my intention to argue or talk others out of their personal convictions, however, I do want to share why I have found Namaste to be a beautiful and biblically sound practice which reflects the second most important command as described by Jesus.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him (Jesus) with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:35-40.

For me, Namaste is a reminder of several of God’s beautiful truths.

To begin, God is the Creator of all. Scripture says that humans were created Imago Dei, Latin for ‘in the image of God’. Each person we meet, whether they have accepted Jesus as their personal savior or not, is made in the image of God.  When I use the greeting Namaste in a general sense (to nonbelievers),  I am proclaiming God as our Creator and bowing to the beauty of his creation, his image reflected in each person I meet- believer and nonbeliever alike. Namaste calls me deep into the command to love others as I love myself. I do not bow to them as gods. I bow to them in deep respect for, and adoration of the One who created us all.  I bow because their Creator loves them and invites me to join him!

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

Furthermore, when greeting a follower of Christ, the word Namaste takes on yet a deeper meaning.  As Christians, we believe that Jesus has done the work to reconcile God and humankind. When we believe and trust that Jesus has restored our relationship with God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, transforming our lives from the inside out. Believers then, both individually and corporately, become the dwelling place of God on the earth. When using the greeting Namaste with fellow believers, I am recognizing that the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. To be clear, I am not saying that we are gods; I am saying that God lives in us.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

Additionally, in the Gospel of John, the imagery of light and darkness is used to describe the birth of Jesus into this world. Christ is introduced as the “the true light, which gives light to everyone” born into the darkness of the world. When using the gesture Namaste in a Christian context, I am reminded that Jesus is the true Light and that his followers are meant to be a reflection of this light in a dark and hurting world.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

I am thrilled when I hear the truth of El Elyon, the most High God, being revealed throughout cultures, history, and time.  Our God is a big God! It is an honor for me to recognize that truth and to have the opportunity to introduce the person of Jesus into the story that God is already telling. I find this kind of truth being revealed in the Eastern greeting, Namaste.  My choice to use this gesture in my yoga classes is beautiful reminder to me that all of humans are made in the image of God, and we are meant to love each other as we love ourselves, as image bearers. At times, I use the greeting Namaste in humble gratitude, remembering that through faith in Christ, the Spirit of the Divine has chosen to live in his followers and to reflect His Light through us into the world.

The truth held in the greeting Namaste is a truth that contains the power to heal many of the great divisions in this world.  The power to unite people regardless of their cultural, racial, religious, social, political, or personal differences. In viewing ourselves, and each other, as smaller parts making up the whole of God’s great creation, we can come to realize that we need each other and perhaps develop a deep respect for each other in spite of our differences.

In closing, I pray that God would be glorified on earth as it is in heaven. Lord, help us to look for your image in each person we encounter, and enable us to live out the beauty and truth held in Namaste in light of Imago Dei.

 

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Love the Creator, Love His Creation…

Love the Creator, Love His Creation…

Today is Earth day, and I am passionate about God’s Creation.  As part of the Evangelical Church, I have been surprised, and saddened, at the lack of concern that fellow believers have for the environment. The Church, as God’s representatives on earth, should not be indifferent to the state of His Creation.  The Church, of all people, should care for God’s Creation, because we know that God is revealing himself through His Creation!

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4

What does the Bible say regarding Creation care?  In Genesis, God made the earth, He calls it “very good”, and then He gives humans “dominion” over Creation. (Genesis 1:28)

As God’s image bearers in Creation, we were intended to act as His representatives; to show the world what God is like. So when God gave humans dominion over the earth, we are meant to do that in a way that the character of God is reflected. This in no way means that we are to be indifferent or abuse nature, but instead, we are meant to be stewards of God’s Creation. Remember, Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to tend it, and to care for it, not to exploit it.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Genesis 2:15

So on Earth Day…who better to celebrate the goodness and beauty of God’s Earth than God’s children? We, as ambassadors of Christ to the watching world, should enjoy a day in which we celebrate the good gift of God’s creation. Christians can, and should, take the lead to educate ourselves, and others, in ways that we can be better stewards of the world that God entrusted to us.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Harnessing Love

Harnessing Love

The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of Love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. -Teilhard De Chardin

Do not underestimate the energies of Love. Love holds the power to accomplish great good, however, if handled incorrectly, it also has the potential for great destruction.

What does it mean to Love well?  

We have been given the perfect picture of LOVE embodied in the person Jesus Christ. Study the life of Jesus, and you will become a better Lover.  Let us be students of Love.  Jesus teaches us to:

  • Love God with all that you are. Love God with all of your being. (Matthew 22:37-38)
  • Love others as you love yourself. Love the same. Love equally. (Matthew 22: 39)
  • Love when it doesn’t make sense. Love your enemies. Love those who have hurt you. Love those who you don’t like. Love those who don’t like you.  (Matthew 5:43-48)

Heavenly Father, You are LOVE. Abide in us; and perfect your Love in us. Holy Spirit, teach us how to rightly love you, ourselves, and others. Show us where and how to harness the power of Love in our lives.  Shape our hearts to reflect your Divine Love in our homes, workplaces, and relationships. Amen.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12

Lessons in Loving

Lessons in Loving

I recently had a revelation when reading in Mark 12 where Jesus is teaching his followers about the most important of all of the commandments.  Mark reads:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

First and foremost, we are made to love God with all that we are; heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Message translation reads, “love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy”. I find the practice of yoga to be beneficial in the Christian life because it addresses the person as a whole: body, mind and spirit.  Yoga, Sanskrit for union, serves to unite the mind with the body in the quest to unite the soul to God. For the follower of Christ, we are reminded that we have been united with God through Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives in us. Ultimately, we are to love God with all of our being, and we can only love God as much as we have received his love for us. This is the first step and most important step in learning to love well.

However, it is the follow up to this most important commandment that recently caught my attention.  It states that we are to “love our neighbor AS we love ourselves” (emphasis mine).  You see, there is an underlying assumption in this directive that we know how to love ourselves well; thus, by knowing how to love ourselves well, we will know how to love others well. Do you hear the relationship?

Unfortunately, I believe that most of us are confused by what it means to love ourselves well. We are either caught up in: the pride of who we think we are; the shame of who we wished we could be; or the guilt of who others want us to be. But can we love ourselves because God loves us?  Is that enough? The truth is, when we learn to love ourselves rightly, because God loves us, we will be better able to love others!

We are to meant live in the balance, the tension, if you will, between loving ourselves and loving others.  For some, it is easier to love others than it is to love themselves; others are prone to love themselves better than they love others.  It would do us all well to examine our hearts, honestly, and become familiar with our individual leanings.  Jesus is clear, we are not to love ourselves more than others; and likewise, we are not to love others more than ourselves, we are to love others AS we love ourselves.

That brings me to this New Year. Many new people will be finding their way into the gym where I work in an attempt to fulfill the most commonly made (and broken) resolution in the United States- to lose weight.  Unfortunately, most will not carry their new found health habits beyond March.

But what if we reframed our resolutions this year to look differently? What if we took the opportunity to love ourselves better; and examined how we might love others as we are loving ourselves?

Instead of dieting, what if we began eating to nourish our bodies, and what if we desired that others would be able to eat to nourish their bodies?

Loving ourselves as we love others.

Instead trying to lose weight, what if we began to care for and steward our bodies as God’s handiwork, his masterpiece,  and what if we desired that others would know and care for their bodies as God’s masterpiece?

Loving ourselves as we love others.

Instead of viewing our bodies as an object to be manipulated,  what if we chose healthy habits for our bodies and our minds knowing that we are God’s dwelling place on earth-God’s temple- and what if we desired that others would know and love their bodies because because God lives in them ? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Loving ourselves as we love others.

The list could (and does) go on for ever. Go ahead and try it… Desiring good things for the right reasons and pursuing them for ourselves as well as for others.

It is important to note that this “loving” works both ways. I have sometimes found myself operating out of “Christian guilt”, after all Jesus gave his life for me, shouldn’t I give my life for others?  While this is true, the concept needs to be held within the tension of LOVE.

For me, this has looked something like:

  • Looking for the best in others; as I look for the best in myself.
  • Caring of others; as I care for myself.
  • Protecting others; as I protect myself.
  • Trusting in others; as I trust in myself.
  • Helping others; as I help myself.
  • Giving to others; as I give to myself.
  • Being truthful with others; as I am truthful with myself.
  • Praying for others; as I pray for myself.
  • Wanting for others; as I want for myself.

I am reminded of the relationship within the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit each acting to glorify the other; loving each other in sacrifice and humility. What would happen if mankind learned to love like this?  I imagine this is why Jesus declared these two commandments to be the more important than any other, and I am inclined to think that this what Jesus had in mind when he taught us to pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”