In Genesis 1:26 the Bible quotes God. He says, “Let us make mankind in our image...” Whatever that means—and there has been much debate—it does not mean that God is like humans. It means humans are somehow like God. Yet we humans constantly create gods in our own image.
The Greeks were masters of this. Zeus was a powerful god who looked like a really strong, though old, man. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, just warfare, mathematics, strength, the arts and crafts and skill. She was created in the image of the ideal woman. Sort of the Proverbs 31 version of a goddess.
Michelangelo picked up the theme in the Sistine Chapel. God and Adam share the same panel in the middle of the ceiling. They look the same; only God looks a lot older.
Our superheroes today are very much like the Greek gods. Superman would not be super if he wasn’t both strong and handsome. Wonder Woman has to be both thin and busty, both powerful and drop-dead gorgeous.
And every superhero, like the Greek gods of old, has a built-in weakness. Just like us. The gods have been created in our image.
When this happens, the sacred stories about the gods become like our stories too. The gods strive to do good, but they are weak. They stumble. They fall. They fail. The gods make a mess of things. Superheroes make a lot of messes too. You don’t want to be in New York City or Gotham when the Avengers are going through a rough patch. Of course, they eventually get cleaned up at the end of the movie, but that’s just hopeful storytelling. We want the story of gods made in our image to end well.
Sacred stories come with sacred sayings. What is more super, and more American, than fighting for truth, justice and the American Way? Or God helps those who help themselves? Oh wait, that one’s in the Bible, isn’t it? Or is it?
The problem with some of our sacred sayings is that they are not in the Bible. They have become myths we love to believe. Myths like: women are supposed to submit to men. Or: the husband is the head of the household. Or: God won’t give me more than I can handle.
The myths of the world are not necessarily the truth of the scripture. Jesus was very clear: the truth will set you free. It is crucial for followers of Jesus to know the truth, and to know truth from error. Sometimes the error is just flat wrong: If you love God, you will be rich. (That’s an easy one to spot. It is not necessarily an easy one to avoid.) But most often bits of truth are mixed in with the myths. Those are the insidious ones. Those are the ones we need to carefully understand and reject.
How do we know if the sacred sayings we love to believe are biblical or if they are just religious myths masquerading as truth? The only way to know is to be thoroughly immersed in the scriptures. It’s why Paul told Timothy to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Otherwise we are just making gods in our image.
This weekend at Lakeside Church we are launching a new five-part series called “Myths We Love to Believe.” The first myth this weekend, in honor of Mothers Day, is “God wants women to submit to men.” Ladies, you’ll love it. Men, I think you will too.
Lakeside Church gathers at 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 9:00 and 10:45 a.m. on Sundays. 745 Oak Avenue Parkway, Folsom, CA 95630