Image of God

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

From the very beginning, human beings have been a unique creation and have had a unique role in caring for the earth. The sun, moon, land, fish, birds, animals, vegetation, all fill the earth; but humans were the only part of creation said, by God, were created in the image of God. Man and woman, as stated in Genesis 2, were created out of the same substances of the earth as the plants and other animals and living creatures; but something was different. God breathed the breath of life into him (Genesis 2:7)
What is the image of God? This is a question that has been discussed for many centuries. John Wesley described the imago Dei (image of God) using three dimensions: the natural image, the political image, and the moral image. It was the moral and natural images that Wesley discussed more often. “The natural Image of God in humanity referred to those characteristics or faculties definitive of being human, while the moral Image of God referred to the ‘character’ of holiness and love that God intended for humanity.” (Maddox 68) Humanity has been given the Image of God through the characteristics of God, such as love. The Image of God shows people how we are supposed to be in relationship to God, to other people, and to creation itself.

The idea that part of our identity is for us to be in relationship with God is important to understand why the Image of God is vital to our being. People were designed from the beginning to be in relationship. We are to be careful stewards of creation and to help build people up so they can experience a life with Christ. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

The benefit of understanding what it means to be created in the Image of God gives more clarity and purpose for people. If we can understand our purpose, we understand why we were created. Many people do not have this kind of mindset, that they are made in the Image of God. 

Holiness is the main quality of God, so it is easy to think that we have to have everything perfect because God is perfect. This can create a skewed way of thinking and cause people to step off the path God designed for them or to create a false sense of who God is and how God works in the world. Throughout the scriptures, especially the Gospels when Jesus speaks of God, the Father, and the letters of John in the New Testament, God is defined as love. people are created to love God and love people. The Image of God imprinted in our souls shows us we are made to be in relationship with God. It is out of God’s love for us that we exist. It is out of God’s love for us that we can experience the feeling and lifestyle of ones who love others.

One of the fun ways to teach and talk about the Image of God with children is by asking them to use their imagination. It is fascinating to watch children begin to create new and interesting objects, or by watching them bring objects to life while they are playing. God has a great imagination and we can see this through everything that has been created. God is constantly up to something and is creating something new everyday. When the children have the opportunity to use their imagination, something new is created. 

God, in Genesis 1, had a grand imagination when the words, “let there be light” came forth and light happened. Then, carefully, planning and designing the rest of creation from the sky to the land to the plants, fish, and land animals, we can see God causing the plans and designs come to life. 

Teenagers begin to develop complexes about their appearance. The important thing we should always remember is to meet people where they are, so God can work in and through them in a new way. So, mirrors would be a good object to use. The reflection in the mirror is not the same as the actual person, but rather the likeness of the person looking into the mirror. Because of sin, there is a distortion (look through a broken mirror). We don’t always see the original image, but we do see pieces of the original image. 

As we look at ourselves in the mirror, do we always love what we see? No. We see the imperfections. We see our flaws. We see the places that “need” to be fixed or improved. Adults are very similar to teenagers in this fashion. Each one of us needs to understand that we are designed to be in relationship with God and this is the foundation of the Image of God within us. 

Since God is love (1 John 4:18), this is who we are as well. One of the best descriptions of love is found in the 1 Corinthians 13 passage. A challenge that has been used for teenagers and adults shows how we can misunderstand love. If we take the time to replace the word “love” or “it” in this passage with God we can see more of God and more of the character of God. We are all made in the image of God, so this means this is who we are supposed to be as well. The challenge comes in to play when we replace “love” or “it” with our name.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)

Sin has caused us to fail in many of these areas. But God, has done something greater than we could have ever imagined. God has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. He lived a life in perfect communion with His Heavenly Father so we can see first hand what God’s original intent for us was when humanity came into existence. It is through the lens of Jesus Christ that we can experience and see anew the Image of God imprinted on our hearts and lives: to be in relationship with God, with other people, and with creation.
Bibliography

Campbell, Ted. Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials. Nashville: Abingdon, 2011. Print.

González, Justo L., and Zaida Maldonado Pérez. An Introduction to Christian Theology. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002. Print. 

Maddox, Randy L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology. Nashville, TN: Kingswood, 1994. Print.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

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Ryan Stratton

Ryan Stratton is a pastor in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He serves with his wife, Amanda, along with their children. He writes about life, faith, and leadership through his blog.

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