At the start of this series on crossed boundaries, I mentioned the way being made in the image of God gives us innate value. One of the clear evils of abuse is disrespect for the image of God in people. Rather, God created us as incredibly precious creatures, and to love and cherish a person involves holding high regard for this being God made.
God is glad he made us
David wrote with wonder and awe when he looked at God’s creation. That awe and wonder extended to humanity. David was amazed that God would even notice us against the background of such splendour, let alone God’s own glory, and yet he saw even children as being alive to God’s voice and having a part to play. If our Bibles correctly attribute this psalm to David,3 it is tragic that he did not stay with this high regard for others during the times in his life when he instead did great harm.
LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!4
Humans are a wonderful part of God’s creation
We will look more at our interaction with the image of God in us, but right now we are taking time to celebrate the good. And the Bible is clear: we are made in the image of God, and that is a wonderful thing. Many people love these words from Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.5
God was intimately involved, not just in creating Adam and Eve, but also in creating each of us. If you have ever poured heart and soul into creating something precious, you might resonate with this sense of making something with fearful care and wonder. And God does not make mistakes.
Humans have not yet exhausted the depths of any field of science. From the tiniest particles that make up all matter to the unfathomable reaches of the universe, creation is incredibly complex. Living beings are amid so much that is wonderful, and God has endowed us with the capacity to love, think, imagine, create, dream, explore, choose, and feel. Obviously enough, we also have the capacity to hurt, harm, and destroy, and such behaviour is a violation of God’s image in us.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
Humans are precious, but there is more to being made in the image of God than that. God entrusted us with an incredible responsibility to care for each other and the rest of his creation on earth.6
In one of his letters to the people at Corinth, Paul said it’s like God has written his own letter, and we are it.7 We represent him, and he will help us do so more faithfully.8 As we relate to God, his Spirit helps us to increasingly reflect his image in us. It is the transformation of our ethics, affecting our behaviour.
I’ve just been reading Exodus and the story of the creation of the Tabernacle. Among all the instructions about curtains and clasps is this incredible celebration of the diversity of gifts God gave different people. He chose people, by name, and gave them artistic skills, leadership skills, teaching skills.9 The whole community had a part to play, and people contributed freely out of their generosity and capacity. Earlier in Exodus, Miriam the prophet, and all the women, used their gifts in music to lead and inspire the whole community while the Israelites were running for their lives.10
Becoming more of ourselves
Being made in the image of God does not mean we are all the same, or that we lose our identity as we become more like him. It’s that each of us can reflect his nature in unique ways. The more we reflect his image, and work on our character to combat the sinful leanings we all have, the more we become ourselves. A narcissistic, entitled, abusive person might well resent the very suggestion that they should change their ways to better care for others. Others love and are inspired by the idea of becoming a better friend, becoming more trustworthy, more loving, or more generous. And when we align ourselves with God’s image in those ways, we come alive.
The author of Psalm 119, the longest psalm, sounds like he was going through hell! Over, and over, and over again he wrote of the suffering he endured, and his deliberate hanging on to God and his goodness. I have met so many victims of abuse that are like that. Their relationship with God might be complicated, but their longing to do the right thing, to love well, to be honourable, is astounding. Just as the psalmist wrote:
Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.11
Most of my favourite people – if one is allowed to have favourites – know what it is like to be hurt, and shudder at the idea of harming others. That reflects the image of God to me.
Humans are precious, but there is more to being made in the image of God than that. God entrusted us with an incredible responsibility to care for each other and the rest of his creation on earth. Click To Tweet
- Genesis 2:7
- Genesis 1:28
- Psalm titles are not generally seen as part of the original text, and there are varying opinions about their accuracy
- Psalm 8
- Psalm 139:13-14
- Genesis Genesis 1:28, and an endless list of references about loving and caring for each other.
- 2 Corinthians 3:3
- 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
- For example, Bezalel and other in Exodus 31:1-11
- Exodus 15:20-21
- Psalm 119:24