“Then God said, let us make man in our image”

Genesis 1:26a

Perhaps it is just me, but I have noticed over the past decade or so a distinct interest in understanding and promoting the truth that man is made in the image of God. On justice issues such as advocating for the unborn, the elderly, or the infirm, Christians lean upon this fundamental truth. We appeal to a common ground upon which all may stand, even those of very different worldviews, that all humans have dignity and worth because all are made in God’s image. And I stand with these efforts; however, do we stop to really think through what it means to be made in his image? 

Firstly, what is an image? We live in a world that bombards our senses with images everyday, so much so that they are taken for granted. In the ancient world, like, way before digital pictures, an image was more like what we would call a statue. Pagan religions would fashion representations of their gods, carved images of that which was otherwise invisible to them. It was into this context that the one true God spoke and created man in his image. Whilst the pagans made images of their gods, the true God made man in his image – to image himself to the world. As humans, we are living images representing the invisible God to his world, so that others would remember and reverence him. 

We are designed to put God on display. Through our lives: our words and deeds, we give others a greater sense of who God is, what he is like, what he values, and what he desires. Images are meant to glorify. We do this for humans in our public spaces, for famous people admired for their character or accomplishment. We, likewise, are made to image the very glory of God. How do we do that? Being made in his image is only part of the story. There is bad news and good news. The bad news is that because of sin, we have marred God’s image. The good news is that God himself, in Christ, came to be the perfect image bearer. Paul wrote: “He is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15)” Jesus is the answer to the age old question of what it means to be made in the image of God. He is the complete picture: “For in him the fullness of God was please to dwell. (Col 1:19)” 

So, as we advocate for justice or the dignity of human life, make sure our appeal speaks of the whole story, putting the perfect image of God on display. We acknowledge the reality of a world crippled with sin, and our common human struggle because of it, but we also point to the greater truth and a destiny fulfilled in Christ and Christ alone.

Something to praise:  

Through faith in Christ we have a beautiful, sure destiny: “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:29,30)”