What does it mean for men and women to be made in God’s likeness or image?
The Hebrew word for “image” comes from the word that we get “icon” from. Most of us deal with icons on our computers, tablets and phones. They are small pictures that represent and point us to a bigger file.
Perhaps humans are like icons of God.
Most of us are familiar with bearing an image when we see a child and say:
“He looks like his dad… he is the spitting “image” of his grandfather… she looks just “like” her mother…
We often reflect or bear the image of someone or the likeness of people in our family. Perhaps in our bigger human family, we all reflect the image or likeness of our Heavenly Father.
Let’s be clear – according to the bible -- that this idea of bearing the image of God, runs like a thread throughout God’s story. God has created us. We didn’t randomly show up or evolve from a lesser life form. We were created by a far greater Life-Source than ourselves – God!
Psalm 8, as one example, is all about men and women reflecting the majesty of the creator God.
There is no room for evolution in the bible – not in the sense that it eliminates God. Not in the sense that many use the term to mean that “humans are simply meaningless, purposeless, biological accidents.”
The bible certainly welcomes us to learn how people behave – called psychology. Or how people relate to others called sociology. Or how the world has come to be as it is called archaeology and anthropology (of which things evolving certainly could be a method). Or medicine to explain how the human body operates.
But none of these preclude the truth that the bible teaches that God is the original creator of all life, the universe and is the continued sustainer of life even today.
The bible is God’s story. And He wants His story to continue to be written and lived out through us even today.
That really is the point of the bible – God telling his story through those you encounter when you read the bible, such as Abraham, David, Daniel, Samuel, and others.
The bible seems to make it pretty clear that all persons have been created by God and made in His image – there are no exceptions.
So, what does it mean to be made in the image of God?
I think we can see what it means to be made in God’s image in three ways at least:
1. In Our Being / Quality
As humans, we have the ability to reason, make choices, and have an invisible soul, that according to the bible will live forever.
The bible talks a lot about God reasoning (“Let us reason together” says the Lord).
We see early in the bible that God has given people the ability to make choices – Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel…
And the bible says a lot about a part of us that will live beyond this life and the grave. When we stand at a grave site, we realize that the person we knew, at least their body has gone into the ground. We also know from research that from time to time bodies are dug up, and the person’s body is still there. But many of us believe that the intangible part of the person, what we call their “eternal soul” is not in the ground, but has gone somewhere else.
The bible says the soul has either gone into the presence of the Lord or it has gone away from the presence of the Lord, a place the bible calls hell.
But have we been given these qualities because God had them first and therefore, we are an icon or reflection of these divine qualities?
Have we been given a unique way as men and women to relate to each other and to God? It seems so according to the bible. No where does it say the plants, our pets or other living things have quite the same ability to relate to God as we do.
It seems we can understand, comprehend, rationalize, and feel emotionally the presence of other people as well as the presence of God.
But at the same time, what often is most apparent in relationships is that both others and ourselves reflect a less than perfect image of God.
Many today feel people are so flawed they don’t bear the image of God at all. But we don’t get that idea from God’s story.
- Is it true that our image is marred, scared, covered over and damaged?
- Has sin corrupted, corroded, distorted all of us from being perfect image bearers of God?
- Are we all not cracked, broken and imperfect people?
- Are we all not a mixture of good and bad? Who here today is perfectly good? Who here is completely rotten with no good thing about you?
Sometimes people are so disfigured from an accident that they are beyond recognition, but does this change who they are?
Sometimes people who have died in a fire or in war can’t be recognized. But Forensic experts have ways to identify who they are.
If we can do that, is it not possible that God can recognize us as He originally made us, despite our flaws, scars and brokenness?
And is it not true, the better we get to know other people, and the more time we spend with them, the more we come across the ugly parts and broken parts of their lives?
But I think we need to know, even as we intersect on our journey with God’s story, He still recognizes us. Even more, He deeply cares about us. He doesn’t cast us aside because we are marred, scared and damaged.
How do we know this? As we read God’s story, this becomes evident. Look how many times God came back around for the broken, flawed and corrupted Israelites?
Look at the people Jesus spent so much time with – the chronically ill, the poor, the orphans, the mentally challenged, the blind, the crippled, those caught in the grip of addiction and sin.
On your journey, even though you are dysfunctional and fractured, you can be a part of God’s grand story
Perhaps the third way we best reflect God’s image or likeness is through living out the purpose God has put within us. God has put desires, pictures, yearnings and energy within you to accomplish not everything -–but something. Sometimes that something is very unusual or unique and other times it seems very ordinary. But when you are living out of your purpose, you know it. You aren’t just surviving, getting by or getting a paycheck.
You are living with passion and energy, leaving a legacy, because you are doing what God created you to do.
Do you feel at this point in your life, you are living by accident or on purpose?
The more we allow our journey to intersect with God’s story, the more we will begin to live on purpose rather than just randomly.
This whole theme of “being created in God’s image” is carried over into the NT.
You see, God isn’t content for us, who were created in His image, and who now are flawed, corroded and broken to remain that way. The NT story of God’s grand story is really all about Christ coming to redeem us and restore us to our original image and likeness in God.
We won’t reach that perfect state that we were originally created for in this life, but Jesus has come, who is the perfect reflection of God’s holiness and righteousness, to restore us.
Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to begin the redemptive process of reflecting the image of God in our lives so that our journey becomes a part of God’s redemptive story. And as that happens, we are used by God to tell His story to others who need to hear the good news!
Question to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to me to be an “icon” of the Living God
- How does this truth change the way I live and approach life each day?