“In His Image” is a book written by Andy Matheson. He is the International Director of Oasis. The book is 217 pages long and is divided into fourteen chapters. In the first two chapters the concepts of being created in the image of God is explored as well as a multi-dimensional view on poverty. The rest of the book is a practical exploration on how to understand and embrace the poor.
The thesis of the book is that the poor are made in the image of God and instead of only seeing their problems, needs and sinfulness. Andy proposes that,
“ … we begin by affirming their capacity for goodness, compassion, perseverance, and love” (p.2)
His understanding of poverty is that it is multi-dimension and encompasses much more than just material lack.
“There is certainly an economic dimension to poverty, but for many of the poor today the pain of their situation and circumstances runs much deeper than a lack of resources or possessions. It has to do with status, choice, opportunity, dignity, justice, relationship, community and hope” p.15
In the following chapters he explore the following ways of understanding and embracing. Instead of giving a full summary I will share some of the quotes that stood out for me.
Community: “In many ways, the projects and programmes Oasis set up were really only vehicles for creating relationships among those we served. For it is only ever through relationships that transformation begins to take place” p.42
Wholeness: He quotes fellow South African David Bosch saying that, “Missionary literature, but also missionary practice, emphasizes that we should find a way beyond every schizophrenic position and minister to people in their total need, that we should involve individuals as well as society, soul and body, present and future, in our ministry and salvation.” p.52
Change: “One consequence of understanding that all people are made in God’s image will be a respect for the personal freedom and choice of those who are disenfranchised, poor and marginalized – the personal freedom and choice God gives each one of us. Because we understand this truth we will choose not to force ourselves, or our views, on them. We will choose not to manipulate situations in order to elicit the response we want from them. We will choose to continue to be there for them when they make choices that take them far from where we would want them to be and, we believe, from where God would want them to be. We will choose the path of weakness rather than that of strength” p.78.
Empowerment: “When we deny people the opportunity to make a contribution, in whatever shape or form that might take, we deny them the right to be human and to fulfil their God-given mandate” p.85
“When our starting point is that all people have been made in the image of God, we will look at people in terms of their capacity instead of their deficiency … Our paradigm of poverty needs to change.”
Compassion: “We don’t have the capability or capacity to share God’s pain for the whole world, but we do have enough for a few” p.101
“Real compassion does not jump to solutions immediately but allows time for true identification with the poor and requires a willingness to enter into their pain so as to understand them, and their situation, more fully” p.113-114
Justice: “Because all people are made in the image of God, we need to treat them equally. A key principle which undergirds any judicial system is equity. Injustice occurs when people are treated differently from one another. When a society is unjust it is always the poor who suffers most. If we are going to see the image of God restored among the poor, we are going to have to engage in issues of justice” p.129
Prayer: “When we began working among the disadvantaged I imagined that we would do a lot of teaching and preaching – a lot of telling people ‘the gospel’. I soon came to realize that the starting point of faith among the poor is not an intellectual grasp of truth but an encounter with the living God” p.136
“When we pray with another person we are, in many ways, saying that the difficulty is beyond our capacity to meet and that relief will only come if God intervenes” p.139
Receiving: “Those who work among the poor need to be ready to learn from them – to see God imagined in a way that we may not have seen before. Those who do not have the material possessions that we have may well have hidden resources of love or faith or joy that flow from their innermost being” p.152
Celebration: “When God made all people in his image he celebrated, saying, ‘It is good – very good!’ Inherent in our very nature as those made in God’s image is a yearning for joy, laughter and fun – a longing to celebrate. Among the poor every small step, every battle won, every progress made is an opportunity for a party” p.164
Prevention: “All people are made in the image of God. When we prevent that image from being marred through abuse and injustice we are doing God’s work” p.178
Perspective: “Because all people are made in the image of God, all people are equally precious in his sight. Sin has not simply separated people from him, it has prevented them from being all that God intends. God is at work in the world to see his image fully restored in people. He uses a whole variety of means to achieve this, including among other people who do not acknowledge his existence or purposes. As we work to see God’s image restored among the poor we do not do so in isolation but as part of the wonderful mosaic of God’s work in the world” p.195
Andy’s book is a wonderful mixture of good theology and practical application. It is also filled with a lot of stories that shows Andy’s pilgrimage with the poor over the past decades. I would highly recommend this book.