Check out the video in this report from the Tour de France. A car driver reportedly ignored instructions from race authorities, and he hit Juan Antonio Flecha and knocked him over into the path of the Dutch rider, Johnny Hoogerland. The next we see, Hoogerland is turning airborne somersaults into a barbed-wire fence at a speed probably well in excess of 40 km/h.
From the official Tour website (near the page bottom):
Forgiveness is a wonderful trait. It’s hard to understand how, only moments after weeping on the podium after receiving the polka-dot jersey for his efforts in stage nine, Johnny Hoogerland refused to lay blame on anyone for an accident that sent him flying off the road and into a barbed wire fence… but the Dutchman has a remarkable attitude even when his future in the race is uncertain.
(Hoogerland) “We can still be happy that we’re alive. It’s horrible. I can blame everyone but I don’t think anyone does this sort of thing on purpose. I think the people in the car will have a very big guilty feeling and they will surely apologize to me and Flecha.
“Juan Antonio came to me and he apologized.
“It should not happen but it’s always possible that this sort of thing happens.
“Nobody can be blamed for this. It’s a horrible accident and I was in it. But I said to Flecha, ‘We’re still alive and Wouter Weylandt died in a crash.'”
Riders train for years for the chance to win a stage of the Tour de France. The pack had been left behind, and Johnny Hoogerland was one of five in with a shout. With his dream in sight, someone’s wrong actions stole his chance. He responded, not with anger or bitter accusations towards the driver whose carelessness could have killed him, but by saying that it was just an accident and that he was thankful it wasn’t worse.
Is Johnny Hoogerland a Christian? I can’t find any indication he is, but in his response we see evidence of the image (or likeness) of God. The Bible says we were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; James 3:9), made to be like Him. This is true of every person on the face of the earth. Those who are not believers will do things that are good and right. Christians do not have a monopoly on the image of God.
Of course, man goes his own way, and the image of God is often obscured by our sin. It may be present in all of us, but too often we have made such a mess of ourselves that God’s image is hardly recognisable. Ephesians 4:23 says we need to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind,” and the next verse says, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” “After God” — we are to be patterned after God, to be like Him. Colossians 3:10 says almost the same thing.
The goal in renewing our minds, in being transformed, is to restore the image of God. Renewal is the process of moving towards what we are supposed to be, and a vital part of what we are supposed to be is that God’s goodness is seen in our lives.
We don’t have to know anything about Johnny Hoogerland, good or bad, believing or unbelieving, to recognise what happened a few days ago: the image of God showed up. It shows up when neighbours help each other out; when someone holds a door open for someone else, or gives a stranger a friendly smile, or tells the truth even if it costs something; when drivers considerately take turns merging in traffic; when someone picks up a piece of litter that they didn’t drop. It is all around us, if we would only look for it.
WHEN WE SEE THE IMAGE OF GOD IN OTHERS….
We should be grateful. We can so easily focus on the sin and problems that have marred this world, but think what a place it would be without the image of God in people. We would do far better, rather than looking for the faults of others, to look for the image of God in them and give thanks for it when we see it. God is good, and it can be seen everywhere if we choose to look for it.
We should give the glory to God. Johnny Hoogerland may have earned a podium spot that day in Le Tour with his mountain climbing exploits, but there is no reason to put him on a moral pedestal. He has undoubtedly done many things wrong. As with all of us, whatever good is in him comes because of the good way in which God made him. His response in this particular case is commendable, but ultimately God is the source of all good (James 1:17).
We should also be challenged. The image of God should be visible in believers, especially. If the image of God is seen in Johnny Hoogerland’s refusal to cast bitter accusations at those who wronged him, that should challenge us to check our response to wrongs done. How much of God’s image can be seen in us at such times?