Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26, 27 ESV).
After speaking into existence all that we see and all that we cannot, the Ultimate Being spoke into existence his ultimate creation. But we were not just to be the last in a line of similar living things. God elevated humanity by making us in his image.
As priests under the Law of Moses were to bridge the gap between man and God (Hebrews 5:1, 2), humans bridge the gap between the rest of creation and the Creator. We are caretakers of the world, not just inhabitants (Genesis 1:28). We were elevated in value, not of our own virtue but of the volition of the Divine.
While we share many similarities with the animal kingdom, we stand apart from and above it. We are imago Dei, or the image of God.
How is man made in the image of God? Certainly not physically. God is “spirit” (John 4:24). He “does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48). Rather, he dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16), and “inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). We must look to something outside the physical to explain our similarity to the Sovereign One.
The two prime characteristics of man that relate to the image of God seem to be an immortal soul and a complex mind. Man is not eternal in the sense that God is, for Deity has no beginning. However, each human being’s soul will live on for eternity. Thus we have no true end. We are immortal.
The mind of man is profound. Most of God’s creatures have a brain, a control center that processes information and controls functions. The mind of man goes far beyond these tasks. While man’s mind produces and processes emotion, it goes beyond even that. God has given man the ability to look out beyond himself and to look deep within himself.
Extrospection is essential to seeking answers to the fundamental questions of life: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Introspection is imperative to perceive the need for those questions, and to formulate the response those questions demand.
God placed within man “eternity” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and seeking after God fills that eternal-sized hole (Ecclesiastes 12:13). God gave man a yearning to “seek God” so that we might “feel [our] way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:27). We view the expanse of heaven and compare that grandeur to our existence and contemplate, “What is man?” (Psalm 8). This is accomplished by our mind.
The mind is not intellect. While the intellect informs the mind, it cannot be said that it is the mind. Those whose abilities to reason never progress are still made in the image of God. Those whose abilities have been damaged by the ravages of time or disease are still made in the image of God.
The mind is not cultural. Those who were raised in a different environment or instilled with different values are as much the image of God as you.
The mind is not physiological. Those whose physical appearance or prowess differs from yours are as much the image of God as you.
That all humans hold equal value before God should be all the more obvious when we see that Jesus, the perfect image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and the exact imprint of the nature of God (Hebrews 1:3), came in the flesh and died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).
The value of each individual, and the necessity of treating each one with sacrificial love, is seen in the sacrifice of Christ (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11). When we sin against one who is created in the image of God, and for whom Christ died, we sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12).
Having the image of God carries with it responsibility. We must seek out and find God. We must learn about him and have faith in him. We must deny ourselves and follow him (Luke 9:23). We must not be conformed to this world with its strife and hatred, but we must be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2).
The next time someone says or does something you disagree with, use the wonderful mind God gave you and speak with love and act with grace, for you know that they are imago Dei. The next time someone abuses another, speak with love and act with justice, for you know that they are imago Dei.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).