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So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. 
Genesis 1:27 (NRSV)

Greek philosopher Plato received praise for his definition of humans as a “featherless bipeds” until another philosopher, Diogenes, brought a plucked chicken into Plato’s academy and exclaimed, “Behold, I have brought you a man!”

We Christians look to Genesis 1 to describe what is at the heart of being human; we are made in God’s image.

People have speculated about the human characteristics that makes us God’s image bearers. Our ability to make moral choices, our reasoning ability, and our spiritual nature all have been suggested.

None of these ideas incorporate Scripture’s teaching; to image God is to be in relationship. God made us in his image as people in relationship with one another and with God.

Genesis 2 even says that something about the “very good” creation was “not good;” Adam was alone. Genesis 1:27 emphasizes that image-bearers of God are made to be in relationship with others. We Christians profess that God is not a single individual. God is one God in three persons — a divine community! God chose us to image him; God chose us for “friendship” with him to quote Dutch philosopher Hans Rienders.

Genesis 3 describes the fall of humankind into sin. Though thistles and pain and difficult work were some of the consequences of the fall, the worst consequence was the shattering of relationships with God and with other people. Because loving relationships form the heart of who we are as image-bearers of God, broken relationships rip at the fabric of our identity.

If a person or group of people is pushed to the side by prejudice or ignorance or pity, that pushing harms not only those who are cut off but also those who do the pushing. Let’s say men from a local group home attend a church regularly, but the church members know nothing about these men, maybe not even their names. The men are not only isolated from the congregation, the congregation also misses out on the gifts that the men could bring to the life of the congregation. But worst of all this disconnect between the men and the congregation rips at the very image of God that is present there in this body. Though they are among the others, they are not with the others, displaced from the community.

We hurt others and ourselves when we push others to the margins, even if we do not mean to show prejudice toward them. When we reach out in love and allow others to love us, God’s image shines through these human relationships. We and they grow more into our identity as God’s image-bearers.

This week Thursday, December 3, is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. What can you do to make the world around you a more welcoming place for all God's image bearers?

Prayer: God, forgive me for fracturing the image of God in others and in myself out of ignorance or prejudice or pity. Thank you for reconciling me to yourself to Jesus Christ and giving me a ministry of reconciliation. Make me a reconciler in and through Jesus Christ. Amen



  I tend to think out loud in public places, and as a result sometimes when I get off a public transit bus some people look at me as if I were dangerous or something.  This is another prejudice against mentally ill people. Actually, people who think out loud are probably a lot less dangerous than terrorists who strike when you don't expect them to and because you didn't the attack coming.  You SHOULD be so lucky as to hear a terrorist thinking out loud, but it's not likely to happen.  The truth is that the chronically normal are a lot more dangerous than mentally ill people who take their medication, and even many mentally ill who don't.  

I pray that despite the fact that this last shoot-out was indeed a terrorist attack, the American people will come to a consensus about the need to control firearms AND take action on it.  Don't let the NRA fool you. Having a handgun in a desk drawer will not help you if someone hell-bent on righting a perceived wrong barges in to your workplace with a machine gun.  You won't have time to pull it out anyway.  And how does the fact that so many Americans do have firearms contribute to the order of your society?

Michele, yes, multiple studies confirm that people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than people without mental illnesses. In fact, people with mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than the general population. 

Regarding your comment about guns, in America, we have a constitutional right to "keep and bear arms." The constitution, however, does not instruct citizens how to do so safely or responsibly. I fear that some people, even law enforcement, are encouraging dangerous behaviors. After the San Bernadino attack, news sources are reporting that "Two sheriffs on opposite sides of the country this week are urging citizens licensed to carry a firearm to please do so in light of recent events. Among those asking citizens to carry every day is controversial Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who on Tuesday publicly advised the state’s 250,000 permit holders that having a ready firearm could mean a difference between life and death in an active shooter incident involving a terrorist or other mass shooter." I find the sherriff's announcement terrifying. It encourages gun owners to come out with guns blazing whenever an attack like this happens. I suspect that if that actually happened, many more people would be killed than if law enforcement alone subdued the attacker. 

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