Human Identity: The Image of God

Every temple needs an image.

The creation, which is God’s cosmic temple, is no different. At the climactic moment of creation God placed an image in that temple. Humanity is the image of God. This is our fundamental identity as human beings.

But what does that mean?

At one level, it involves our embodied existence. We are the walking, talking, breathing, presence of God in the world. We don’t live in the heavens or walk around in celestial bodies. We are earthy, made of the dust of the earth. We belong to the earth; we live material, physical lives. We are not made of gold and silver, or wood and stone, like the idols that populate other temples; we are flesh and blood, and it is as flesh and blood that we image God.

At another level, it involves our capacities for relationship, creativity, rationality, morality, spirituality, among a host of other qualities. We are equipped to mirror God’s own life. When we create, we mirror God’s creative activity.  When we live in intimacy with another, we mirror God’s own community of love. When we act in love and seek justice, we mirror God’s own nature. We are created to be like God, and God gave us the capacity to participate in that life.

God forbade Israel to make any idols or images of God. Those images have no breath in them. God does not want any human-made images because God has already made God’s own image. God does not need an image because we are the image of God.

As divine image-bearers, we represent God within the creation. Everything about us images or mirrors God’s own life. It is not one or two aspects of us that image God but our whole selves represent God. Whether it is our creativity, our intellects, or our relationships, we are designed to represent God in every respect and equipped to participate in God’s mission.

This is our human identity. This is the status God gives us. We are God’s representatives on the earth.

This means every human being participates in the life of God. We share the divine nature to the extent that we participate in God’s own nature. We love because we are the image of God. We reason because we are the image of God. We know intimacy because we are the image of God. Our every breath is the breath of the Spirit of God who gives us life, dignity, and status within God’s good creation.

This means that every human person, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, gender, or age, has intrinsic dignity and worth. Every human person is crowned with glory and honor as the image of God. Everyone possesses royal nobility.

Every human being is valuable because they are God’s representatives. Consequently, we love every human being because we love God, and we honor every human being because we honor God.

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