Every now and then I sit down to do a jigsaw puzzle with my kids. A lot of the time, these puzzles are pictures of their favourite cartoon characters, animated heroes or movie princesses. There have been times when we have been doing a puzzle and some pieces have been missing. Even though we’d done as much of the puzzle as we could, the image of the person in the picture was left incomplete.
To complete the picture, we could try to use other things to fill the gaps. We could attempt to make our own pieces and substitute them. Or we could use pieces from other puzzles to try to complete the image. In the end, only pieces that really fit will be able to complete the picture.
In the creation story from Genesis 1, we read that God created humanity in his image (verses 26,27). There are a number of ways in which people understand what is meant by the ‘image of God.’ For example, it could mean having a spirituality unlike anything else in creation, being created for a special relationship with God, having the ability to think rationally, or even being able to make things. One thing it doesn’t mean is that God physically looks like us with a head, body, two arms and two legs. The image of God in us is much deeper than our physical appearance. Humanity carries something in us which resembles the nature and character of God.
However, when sin entered the world, the image of God within us became distorted and corrupted. We still have it, but it isn’t the way God originally intended it to be. One way in which people describe this distorted image of God in us is like looking at ourselves in a broken mirror – we can still see ourselves but not as we really are. Another way we can think of this distorted image is like a jigsaw puzzle of a portrait which is missing some key pieces. We can still work out who it is, but we can’t see the person’s image in the way they really are. Because of sin in the world and in us, we can be aware of God’s image in us and in each other, but that image isn’t what it was meant to be.
There’s something in us that realises that something is missing in our lives, just like in my jigsaw puzzle, so we try lots of different things to fill those holes. We can try things like relationships, paid or unpaid work, sport, family, school, all sorts of things. Especially in our consumer culture, we are taught that buying more stuff can fill the gaps in our lives. There was an ad om TV a while ago which showed people with holes in them that matched products they could buy. The message of the ad, and the idea behind a lot of what happens in our society, is that we can fill in the gaps of our lives and find a sense of being ‘complete’ through the things we buy.
The way in which God fills our emptiness and makes us complete is through the person of Jesus. Paul shows us how God does that in Colossians 2:6-15. He writes that ‘in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body’ (v9 NLT). Jesus is the perfect image of the invisible God. When we look at Jesus, we see the clearest picture we can of who God is and what God is like. Jesus shows us what humanity created in the image of God should look like. Jesus is exactly how God intended humanity to be from the beginning of creation. When we look at Jesus and get to know him, we can see and discover who God wants us to be as people who carry his image in us.
Jesus isn’t just an example of how God wants us to be. Paul says God actually makes us complete by filling us with the fullness of Jesus, who is himself the fullness of God in bodily form, when we are united with Christ through faith. It would be like placing my incomplete puzzle on the picture on the box, and then the two becoming one as the complete picture fills the missing pieces and completes it. This is what Jesus does for us as we are united with him through faith – Jesus fills our gaps, makes us complete and restores the original image of God in us so we can be the way God intended us from the beginning of creation.
Paul explains that the way to be made complete in Jesus is by living as his disciples. He writes about ‘accepting Jesus Christ as … Lord’, which means embracing Jesus and the gospel through faith, trusting it as good news for us. This faith leads us to follow Jesus as we learn to live in the way of faith and love from him. This new life in Christ involves ‘putting our roots down into him’ so that the good news of Jesus becomes the source of goodness for our lives and what keeps us strong when the storms of life come our way. God completes us as his new creation when we build or lives on him through faith and love, just like someone builds a house on solid foundations (Matthew 7:24-27). We can find our complete selves in Jesus when we live as his disciples, following him, drawing strength and life from him, and building our lives on his grace and love.
We can then bring this completeness into every aspect of our lives. Instead of looking to be made complete through our relationships or family, work or school, possessions or anything else, we can embrace them and go into them as people who have been made complete through Jesus, and be part of God’s plan to make all of creation complete in him. This new perspective on life begins with finding who we are as people who have been made complete in Christ through faith in him and living as his disciples.
I get frustrated when I’m putting a jigsaw puzzle together and there are missing pieces. It feels like something’s missing when I can’t complete it. When we realise that we’re incomplete and there are pieces missing in our lives, we don’t have to try to fill the gaps with things that don’t really fit. We can go to Jesus, who makes us complete by filling us with the fullness of God.
More to think about:
- Do you know what it’s like to start a jigsaw puzzle but not complete it, either because you don’t have the time or there are missing pieces? What is that like for you?
- Do you every feel like there’s something missing in your life? If you do, can you put your finger on what it might be?
- How do you try to fill any holes that might exist in your life? How do you try to find a sense of being complete or fulfilled?
- Is that working for you? Or are you still looking? Explain why…
- What do you think of what Paul says about Jesus completing us? Do you think it’s possible to find a sense of being complete or fulfilled in Jesus?
- The good news of Jesus can speak into every aspect of our lives, no matter what we feel might be missing. How might Jesus be able to complete you and what you feel might be missing in your life? (if you don’t know how to answer that, I’m happy to try to help if I can; just let me know…)
- How might you be able to see different aspects of your life in a new way as a person who is complete in Christ? How might going into them as a complete person instead of looking for them to make you complete change our approach to them for the better?