Made in God’s Image
God has made us in his image. It is not something we possess and thus can lose; rather it is the very essence of what we are. To be human is to be in the image of God.
All human beings are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Whether male or female, whatever ethnicity, no matter the social, economic, political or religious views or status.
Why is this truth so important in our understanding of mission? It is because it forms the framework of our approach to everyone and everything.
1) Being made in God’s image means all human beings have the capacity to be addressed by God. This means that every person has an awareness of God and has the capacity to be open to God – to engage in dialogue with God.
a. God communicates and longs to reveal himself to everyone more and more
b. God communicates across language, cultural and worldview differences
c. It is our sin and rebellion that supresses and perverts this innate awareness
d. The Gospel has power and life giving potential for all to hear God. Its truth and revelation of God’s love resonates with us because we are all capable of hearing God’s voice because we are all made in his image.
This is a vitally important truth as we often underestimate the simple power of the Gospel. We worry that we will come across too simply. We are concerned that we will offend – but the reality is that we will connect with each person’s inner capacity to hear God’s voice to them. We are often silenced by the lie that they cannot respond.
2) Being made in God’s image means all human beings are accountable to God. All people share a common sense of ethical and moral obligation. In the Book of Amos we see God call many nations to account for their actions, not just the Israelites. There is a sense that we all know the fundamentals of ethical responsibility to God and to one another. Psalm 33: 13-15 shows us that God knows every individual human being, considers their actions and holds them to account.
We may wonder what drives many (Christian or non-Christian) to do good works or engage in social action. It is the essence of God’s image in us all which draws us to commend and to desire this type of response.
The reason God is so angry against the idols of greed and selfishness (Ezekiel 16:49-50), is that it suppresses this characteristic of God in us and as we become more selfish we become proud and arrogant caring for ourselves and not for others.
3) Being made in God’s image means that all human beings have dignity and equality – this is our common bond and should form a radical commitment to equality, respect and dignity to all people, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, religion, status, role or age. The command to love our neighbour as yourself captures this profoundly. It is also informs and guides us on how we are to communicate with one another – 1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for this hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
Of course, it goes without saying that they will only ask if they see the evidence of this hope lived out in lives and actions.
4) Being made in the image of God means that the Gospel is Good News for all. It also means that we share a commonality in that we are all sinners and we have all rebelled, thus we all need the Gospel.
Sin and rebellion does not remove God’s image, rather it distorts and spoils it. Jesus’ death and resurrection breaks the power of this distortion and suppression of the truth and so liberates us and restores us to live life in all its fullness – which was God’s original intention.
Jesus models this life to and for us.