Genesis 1:28 (NIV)
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
This brief statement contains an important nuance that is often overlooked. The pronouns referring to humans move from the singular to the plural when humankind’s creation is described (from “him” to “them”). We easily and readily recognize that we are created individually in God’s image, and we tend to limit our understanding to the singular. “I am made in God’s image.” “He is God’s image.” Rarely do we think about the image of God in the plural. “Together, we are God’s image.” “They are God’s image.” Realizing this, we are reminded that all people, individually and collectively, are created in the image of God.
This thought is closer to the Old Testament view that all of the children of Israel together were the image of their Creator. Likewise, for God’s New Testament people, we are all the Body of Christ, different parts of one whole, and each of these parts is the image of God, and the whole body together is the image of God. We collectively image God, because God is a divine community of three Persons. One person alone cannot image God fully, because God is a community.
This collective view of the image of God has implications for how we think and how we view other people. The image of God is not limited merely to individual attributes or characteristics; all of us together are the image of God. Consider the incredible variety God created in His image. Male and female reflect God’s image. The image of God is African American. The image of God is Asian. The image of God is European. The image of God sits in a wheelchair, walks with a cane, has a companion animal, and has trouble learning.
As we do service for each other as the image of God, we do service for God. Jesus taught His disciples that serving the “least” of their brothers was serving him (Matt 25:31-46). Being the image of God means that as we are one body in the body of Christ, so all of us human beings are all one in the image of God.