“So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female” (Gen. 1:27).
This changes everything, doesn’t it? That every life is created in God’s image changes our view of people. It changes our actions toward them. It changes the issues we care about and to which we devote ourselves. The image of God has profound implications.
The image of God is why we contend for the sacredness of human life—from conception to natural death. It is why we oppose abortion and stand up for the unborn.
David the psalmist said to God: “it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). God said to Jeremiah, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb” (Jer. 1:5). Scripture clearly informs us the yet-to-be-born child is a creative work of God—created with purpose, and as such deserves protecting.
2. Unity and Reconciliation
Because God created humans in His image, each human life has intrinsic value. That we are made in God’s image means human worth is not based on race, ethnicity, economic status, social standing, or physical attractiveness. Consequently, the image of God disallows prejudice of any kind.
Prejudice is a sin wherever it raises its ugly head; it is especially appalling in the church and in the hearts of those who call Jesus Lord. James boldly addressed a form of prejudice in the church of his day with the command: “do not show favoritism” (Jas. 2:1). He described those who showed partiality on the basis of outward appearance as “judges with evil thoughts” (2:4). Later, he addressed the illogical contradiction of using our tongues to bless God while cursing people who are made in the image of God (3:9).
If God created humans in His image, and every life has value, then we cannot ignore those trapped in poverty, trafficking, or homelessness. We cannot ignore the widow or the orphan who bears the image of God. As image bearers of God—protector of strangers and helper of the fatherless and the widow (Ps. 146:9)—we must do something. Has God not told us …
- “Open your hand willingly to your poor and needy brother in your land” (Deut 15:11).
- “Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9).
- “Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause” (Isa. 1:17).
Jesus taught that our response to the least of this world is in some measure an indication of the validity of the relationship with profess to have with Him. (See Matt. 25:35-45.)
4. Gender and Sexuality
The image of God involves gender. In the beginning, God “created them male and female” (Gen. 1:27). From a biblical understanding, then, the gender discussion is about more than sex, it’s about what it means to be human.
Also, the creation account reveals that God ordained marriage between one man and one woman to be the foundational institution of human society (2:24). Further, human sexuality is a gift of God to humanity and is a manifestation of what it means to be made in the image of God. Our Creator, who created us to be sexual beings, designed sexual relations to take place in marriage between a man and a woman. This, too, is rooted in the creation account.
The image of God means people have the capacity to know and to have fellowship with God—we are created for that very purpose. Spurgeon said: “Man was made in the image of God, and nothing will satisfy man but God, in whose image he was made.” Consider the tremendous implications this has for the church in the area of evangelism and missions.
The implications of the image of God are indeed many and profound.
Mike Livingstone works at Lifeway Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.
I think that these five points are very helpful in beginning to see the ways that our being made in the image of God affects more than we think. I really love the fact that you encompass everything from value all the way to sexuality and what it means to embody the likeness of God.