The Greek word translated as “image” in most English versions of the Bible is eikon, from which we also get “icon.” It is used in the Bible both literally 1 and figuratively.2 The Septuagint, the first standard translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek, called Adam “the eikon of God.”
The sculptures, paintings, and carvings in Orthodox churches are called icons, but modern culture also includes a surprising quantity of icons. People who are greatly admired or considered excellent at what they do—entertainers, sports stars, entrepreneurs, etc.—are often considered icons. And then there are more mundane icons—our computer screens are cluttered with those little pictures representing programs and shortcuts. Some icons have even taken on a life of their own, like the yellow smiley face emoticon.
Some people also use the word “icon” to explain the Christian’s role in the world. We are to strive to be images of Christ by doing as He did, or would do today. That’s not a bad idea. If we could see our fellow believers as images of God, it would certainly engender brotherly love and respect. Mother Teresa even took that concept a step further. “I see Jesus in every human being,” she said. “I say to myself, This is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
Few of us will ever attain to the level of selfless love that Mother Teresa came to symbolize, but we can strive in our own lives to be more like Jesus. We do that by spending time with Him, reading His Word, and practicing what He preached and lived. “All of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”3