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