There are times when we don’t know what to think of ourselves. Some people feel so worthless that they can hardly stand to live another minute. Others are so full of self-importance that they lift their hands in praise of their own divinity. One says, “I am nothing.” Another says, “I am everything.” The Bible, however, doesn’t leave us wondering about who we are. It tells us we are made by our creator — in his image. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read, Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. This is where we get our identity.

We can see in humans both dignity and humility. There is dignity because we were made in the image of God. There is humility because we are not God, but only the image of God. We’re not made in the image of just any old thing, but rather the sovereign, eternal, all-powerful creator of the heavens and the earth. We are unique in all creation. God modeled us after something within himself.

Theologians have debated for centuries what the image of God consists of. But in its most general sense, the image of God is all of those things which set humanity apart from the rest of creation. According to the biblical view, humans are special, unique, exalted, and exceptional. Humanity is not on the same level as animals, plants or dirt. We are in a different category altogether. Humanity, unlike other creatures, has an orientation towards God. We can praise God, know God, fellowship with God, obey God, and disobey God. Human life is meant to be directed towards God. This is how we live out our humanity. Our lives are to be directed towards God in love, worship, obedience, and submission and in that we find freedom, joy, peace, meaning, and significance.

All people — not just some — are given dignity, importance, and significance because they were created in the image of God. Any view which elevates one class or type of people above others, or views or treats another group of people as inferior is sinful and fails to recognize and honor the image of God in those people. One of the ways we honor God is by honoring those who bear his image; and we dishonor God when we don’t honor those who bear his image. Simply put, we are valuable because we are made in God’s image.

As image bearers our mission was and is to seek out God’s interest, to promote his agenda, to make a name for God. Problems, however, showed up when sin entered the world. Humankind became Glory thieves; image bearers of self instead of image bearers of God; reflections of human pride and arrogance instead of reflections of God’s love; pointing to our own glory instead of pointing to God’s glory. Every sin is us saying we’re not going to live as an image bearer of God. We’re going to live as God, do things our way, according to our own wisdom and desire — not his. We think that in doing so we’ll find freedom, joy, and life. But all it does is lead to slavery, misery, and death. So there comes a need for renewal.

We are a work of art, created in the image of God. Then sin tarnishes us. God’s image is still there but we are a deeply flawed representation of God. But God values us so much that he sent his son to die for us to rescue us from the consequences of sin and to renew the beauty of God’s image in us. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, came to earth taking on human flesh, and thus was the perfect image of God. He was the embodiment of the righteousness, holiness, and love of God. And when we turn our lives over to him, and accept the reality of his sacrifice for us, our sin is washed away, and we are renewed and reborn — recreated, if you will. We are new creatures – created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. In this there is hope for abundant life now — and a perfect life later when Jesus returns and God creates a new heaven and a new earth.

Don Green is the pastor of the First Christian Church.

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