The Image of God

Why are we here? What is our purpose, our reason for being? While this can be, and really must be an essential personal question, it is also a question that can, and should be asked of the entirety of humanity. Why are humans even here? In fact, I believe that before we can really answer that question in it’s personal, individual form, “Why am I here?” we must first tackle the question from the broader perspective, “Why are we here?” For answers I believe we can turn to the sacred texts of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions. The Tanakh, Qur’an, and the Bible each understand humanity as the result of deliberate, intentional creation by an intelligent, all powerful God. The names may be different, YHWH, Allah, or just God but the creation story is essentially the same in either account.

In a time when there was no physical realm, as we have come to know it, this relational God decided to create a world and populate it with all types of living creatures, humans among them. The Christian Bible records the event this way,

“God said, “Now we will make humans, and they will be like us. We will let them rule the fish, the birds, and all other living creatures.”    27So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women. 28God gave them his blessing and said:   Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.    29I have provided all kinds of fruit and grain for you to eat. 30And I have given the green plants as food for everything else that breathes. These will be food for animals, both wild and tame, and for birds.” (Gen. 1:26-29, CEV)

I find it most interesting that the charge and challenge to the newly created being was not, “Praise GOD!”. God does not say to the men and women, newly created, “I have created you for My praise”. God does not put emphasis on a vertical relationship between humans and God that already existed by virtue of the act of creation itself. As beings created by God, humans are naturally going to seek relationship with God, the creator. What God wanted to emphasize to the newly created men and women is the relationship to the creation.

Many of us already know the pain and heartache that comes from not developing a relationship with the God of creation. We can feel the emptiness of a void that just cannot be filled with anything else no matter how we try. As the One who created us God knows that we will have to come into relationship our creator if we are to live truly fulfilling lives. It is our relationship with one another that God wants us to be intentional about. Notice that the command that God give the newly created men and women is to, “have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it [the earth] under control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.”

It has been well noted that the text here says, “So God created humans to be like himself”. Books have been written about the fact that we are created in the “Imago Dei“, the image, or likeness of God. In what sense are we the image of God? In what way can it be said that we are the image of God? We need look no further than the creation account here cited for answers to this question. Traditional western theological thought puts emphasis on rule and dominion here. I want to suggest that God gives the example of what He has already done to demonstrate what he expects from His creation. God says, “I have provided all kinds of fruit and grain for you to eat. 30And I have given the green plants as food for everything else that breathes.” This God who is powerful enough to speak a world into existence, who by the power of His might and will caused all things to be, does not give a demonstration of His dominion and power. Rather God demonstrates who He is by highlighting His care!

Care for creation is the image of God, not rule and domination which has lead to injustice, war, hatred, and the most hideous acts of man’s inhumanity to man. (Isa. 5:7) God in essence says to us that it is in how we care for one another, for our earth, and the other creatures that inhabit it that we demonstrate the “imago dei” Understanding this brings clearer meaning to the parable of The Good Samaritan. It is how we care for one another, both individually and collectively as a society, that will ultimately determine the extent to which we display the “image and likeness of God”. When we call other human beings “illegal”, or “illegitimate” we do not display the image of God. When a few get rich at the expense of the many, we do not display the image of God. When we say that some people are not worth a living wage, we do not display the image of God. When quality healthcare is reserved for the well, the well off, and the wealthy we do not display the image of God.

From the very beginning of creation God has made it clear that our responsibility to display the “imago dei” means not only looking inward and upward, but it means looking outward, to the left and to the right, in front and behind. Our challenge and responsibility is not just to love God, but to do so by following the teaching of Jesus to, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We live in the image of God when we reach out to others and . . .

Make A Difference . . . For Life ! !

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