The great practical value of being made in the image of God

The great practical value of being made in the image of God

One foundational truth that the Bible teaches is that all people are made in the image of God. It’s right there in the first chapter of the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-27. This means that all people in some way are like God. An image of something in the ancient world could mean a statue that looks like a king, or a coin with the likeness of an emperor. Being like God doesn’t mean that we look like God (for he is spirit) but it does mean that we have some characteristics that are like God. We are built to have authority over the world (Gen 1:28) and being made in the image of God equips us for this. People are able to have a relationship with God and to rule God’s world in a way that animals cannot.

Although people are rebellious and sinful, this image of God remains in all human beings. That’s clear in places like Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9. It is important to emphasize this: all human beings. The Bible teaches that all people have incredible inherent value. All people, regardless of their abilities, beliefs, gender, achievements, race, are made in God’s image. There are no fundamental divisions between some people who are more important than others.

This has all kinds of important applications.

One is that Christians have often been the ones who have set up institutions to care for the needy and underprivileged in society. All people, even those who are disabled, orphaned, elderly, or sick, are made in the image of God. They should all be treated with dignity. These institutions have sometimes been set up in societies where the poor were ignored or left to fend for themselves; those who believe the Bible cannot be comfortable with allowing that.

Another application is to the hot button issues of abortion and euthanasia. If we look at these issues from the perspective of convenience, or personal choice, or value to society, it would be tempting to allow both of them. But when we come from the position that all human beings have great value to God we cannot support abortion or euthanasia. Unborn children have great value as people as do the elderly and sick. They deserve care not an easy way out of a problem situation.

Believing in the image of God also has practical value to you and me every day. We come across all kinds of different people in our lives. Some of them seem to be important, like our boss or those in the government. Some might seem less important, like the shopkeeper who serves us or the person who cleans the office. If we are taking this doctrine seriously, we need to treat all people we meet as having great value. Taking the time to treat people with respect, even people who cannot pay you back or do anything for you, is a mark of the Christian.

It also should mean that churches are welcoming to all. That those with disabilities or mental issues or loneliness or poor social skills or of a different ethnic background to us are welcomed equally. Churches must avoid cliques where everyone looks the same; we need to be diverse collections of people made in God’s image. Not only will this be consistent with the Biblical teaching on this topic, all of us will be the richer for it.