Imaging God

IMAGING GODAs I’m preaching through Genesis 1-11 at Tsawwassen Alliance Church, this week I’m preaching on Imago Dei, the doctrine that humankind was created in the image of God (from Genesis 1.26-31). In my study I was reminded of the following excerpt from my book:

 

IMAGING GOD

At the pinnacle of his creation, God creates the first man and the first woman. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Distinct from the rest of God’s good creation, humankind is created in the image of God. To image God is to reflect God, or to look like him in some way. Like how a mirror reflects an image, humans reflect the image of God.

This is not to say that we are God. Just as you would never say that your image in the mirror is you. You aren’t in the mirror; an image of you is in the mirror. It looks like you, but isn’t actually you.

My wife and I have three kids, each of whom look quite similar to each other. I can’t count how many times in the first week of his life I called my youngest son, Jeremy, by his older brother’s name. They look so similar! Our kids also look like us in many ways. They have my chin and ears, but my wife’s fair skin, light hair and blue eyes. They also take after our personality traits and mannerisms in many ways. People often remark how our kids look or act like one or both of us. The way children look and act like their parents is similar to the way that humans image or look like God. When God created humankind, he made them to reflect him. Humans carry on the family resemblance of their Father who made them.

Sometimes people like to get really precise and pinpoint one specific way that we reflect God and conclude that that one thing is the image of God. In reality, we image God in many ways. As humans have a spirit, they reflect the God who is spirit. As humans live in community, they reflect the three-in-one triune God who is a model community. As humans exercise authority, dominion and care over creation, they reflect the God who in his sovereignty sustains and upholds his creation. As humans create technology, art, beauty and music, they reflect The Artist, the God who loves creativity and beauty. As humans demonstrate love, sacrifice and generosity, they reflect our loving, sacrificial and generous God.

As we live more and more in godliness we reflect God more clearly. Even after sin enters the world and infects us, we remain bearers of God’s image, distorted though that may be at times.[1] As Driscoll & Breshears write, “as sinners, we remain God’s mirrors, but mirrors that have been thrown to the floor and broken and scattered into numerous shards and bits. Consequently, we reflect the glory and goodness of God infrequently and poorly.”[2] Though the mirror is broken, and reflects poorly, it still reflects God.

INHERENT WORTH

One of the significant implications of the doctrine of being made in God’s image is that all humans have inherent worth, dignity and value. Our value as humans comes not from our accomplishments and success, accumulated wealth and prosperity, or physical abilities, but from our creation in God’s image. We need to derive our worth, not from our accomplishments and experiences but from how God has made each person as an image-bearer.

This point is crucial and so many people get it wrong. We tend to believe that we’ll be loved and valued by God if we perform well or meet expectations. Just last week I met with a woman who didn’t understand her inherent value as an image bearer. Though she wouldn’t say it in these terms, she believed value was found in being married, having children and finding the approval and love of others. Being single and unable to have children she felt worthless. By misunderstanding the Story of God, she carried false beliefs about herself which distorted her outlook. To live in the story of God, we need to remember the truth about ourselves, that we are made in God’s image and carry inherent value and worth.

That every human is created in the image of God is the reason why murder is so wrong. The first time in the Bible that we’re told that murder is forbidden, the reason given is “for God made man in his own image.”[3] Killing a person is altogether different than killing a plant or even an animal. A person is an image-bearer of God.

The story of evolution teaches the principle of survival of the fittest. The strong are right to devour or leave behind the weak if the weak are slowing them down. The interests of the species are always ahead of the interests of the weak. In this line of thinking the Nazi’s murdered an estimated 200,000 people with mental illness. Hitting a little closer to home, in 2005, there were 96,815 abortions reported in Canada.[4] The strong devour the weak.

But in the Story of God, the weak have inherent value as image bearers of God. Your parents may have made a mistake, but God created you with intentionality, creativity and design. He made you in his own image, built with inherent worth and dignity. You matter because you were made by God to look like God.


[1] See Genesis 9:6 where people remain image bearers even after the fall.

[2] Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 138.

[3] Genesis 9:6

[4] According to Statistics Canada. Available at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-223-x/82-223-x2008000-eng.pdf

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