All Christians proudly affirm the statement that we are created in the image of God, but what does it mean? What kind of impact does our understanding of this concept have on the way we live? or on our theology?
It’s from Genesis 1:26 – “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
There are about 5 major lines of thinking about what it means to be created in the image of God:
1. Content – We reflect God’s image in our personalities, intellect, emotions, ability to make judgments, etc.
2. Dominion – We reflect God’s image by the simple fact that we have been given dominion over the earth. The idea of stewardship is big with this one – because we are to take care of that which is His. (Notice the “dominion” context within the verse.)
3. Community – We reflect God’s image because we are social beings. This one focuses on the “our” part of the verse. Let “us” make man in “our” image. Since God is a communal God – three in one – a relational God – we are in His image as we relate to one another.
4. Representation – Now this one is a bit different and you’ve gotta understand something about the Bible. In the original language (Hebrew), the word translated “in” is the same preposition which can be also translated “as.” Usually the context of the passage makes it clear which is the proper translation. In this case however, it works both ways. The interpretation could just as well be “Let us make man as our image. . .” So anyway, the idea is that we are supposed to represent God to the world. We are literally the image of God as we reflect what He is like to everyone around us.
5. Holism – This one is a combination of all of the ideas presented here. Representation is the foundational idea and Content, Dominion, and Community are the ways that we represent Him.
Pretty cool stuff huh? I guess I’d be a Holist if I were asked to pick a position.
How will this change my life? Well, first of all I plan on making a video (link below) similar to the Nooma videos for the youth in my church covering this topic. I think it’s a cool way to teach these verses and also relate it to the issue of self-esteem which so many of them are struggling with. I’ll probably post it on here on my website once I get it finished. I also think this understanding will be an encouragement to “represent” Christ more fully.
Here’s the link to the video I put together to explain this idea: Image