Glory

Glory.

It’s a word in the Christian tradition that most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, skip right over.  We sort of have a framework for what it means to “give glory to God,” which is akin to praise, honor, and worth, but apart from sing-song words, we don’t really know what to do with it — particularly when it comes to glory being described of … us.  When it deals with God giving us glory.  What does that even mean?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man (humanity/mere mortals) that you are mindful of him, and the son of man (humanity/mere mortals) that you care for him? 
Yet, you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.  
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
and you have put all things under his feet
(Psalm 8:3-6)

What does it mean that God has crowned us with glory? 

Crowned with Glory

Well, we need to first know what the word glory actually means.  In Greek, the word δόξα (“dóxa”) means something like “seems to be, appears as, represents.”  In Hebrew, the word כבוד (“kavod”) means something like the “weight, heaviness or greatness” of something or someone.  Now, when we put the meanings of two different languages and two different cultures together, the best way to describe glory is something like “true presence.”  In the Hebrew Bible, when God’s presence came to rest on the Tabernacle or Temple or with the Israelites in a specific way, it was described as the “Shekinah” glory (שכינה), or the physical representation of the presence of God. 

In other words, glory of God, what represents His presence, is more similar to the word “image of God” — again, what represents who He is.  And here, the language of Psalm 8 makes sense, because it has the same verbiage as Genesis 1. 

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens,
and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
(Psalm 8:6-8)
So God created humanity in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. 

And God blessed them.  And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
(Genesis 1:27-28)

The glory of God given to us is the same thing as us being God’s image-bearers.  It’s about a calling and a vocation — it’s about how we were created and what we were created for.  It gives us both our identity and our purpose. 

And this is why understanding glory is so crucial to understanding the Kingdom of God. 

God’s Image-Bearers

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 
(Romans 8:12-18)

Romans 8 is considered to be the pinnacle of theology, and here, Paul takes his time to paint the picture of what it means that God has given us glory.  Glory given to us and glory that is to be revealed in us is something that all of creation has been groaning for — the children of God to be revealed.  To be glorified.  To be presented.  To appear.  To arrive.  To show up. 

Why? 

Because this is how God wants to restore the whole world.  If glory given to us means us living as God’s image-bearers in the world, then by default, all the brokenness in the world, in creation and in relationships, is meant to be restored by the children of God really living into who they’re meant to be.   Ruling and taking dominion in the way that God meant for us to. That’s what glory means.  Our true presence taking effect in the culture and world around us.

If glory given to us means us living as God’s image-bearers in the world, then by default, all the brokenness in the world, in creation and in relationships, is meant to be restored by the children of God really living into who they’re meant to… Click To Tweet

Sharing with Christ

But, this begs the question, what does our true presence look like?  What are we supposed to be like and do?  What does image-bearing look like?  Glory is tightly knit to Christ.  The Son of Man did two things: 1.) He shows the world who God is — He is the Shekinah Glory, the True Presence of God.  2.) He shows us who we are — He is the complete representation of what being image-bearers of God is supposed to be like – how we’re supposed to live into our glory. 

And the surprising thing about the way in which Jesus lives and shows us to live is that glory is tied to suffering.  We share both in Christ’s suffering and glory.  Ruling and taking dominion in the way of Jesus means being willing to sacrificially love.  Enter into the suffering of those around us, having eyes to see the broken places in our neighborhood and culture, and walking right in.  Living just like the servant King Jesus is.  Glory and Suffering.

What does Glory mean?
What does it mean that we are given glory or are glorified?
What does it mean that we join Jesus in his suffering and glory?

How we and the missional communities we lead and love answer these questions really matter.  It matters in how we will live out the living presence of God in our own contexts and neighborhoods.  It matters in how we will enter into the suffering of others in order for their own image-bearing glory to be restored.  It matters in how we better define ourselves, our communities, and the Lord we choose to imitate. 

About the Author
Eun Strawser

Eun Strawser

Eun is a bi-vocational church planter and physician in Honolulu, HI where she’s surrounded by her tribe, Ma Ke Alo o, a people of Presence, which includes her red-bearded husband and their three, seriously, amazing children.

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