Made in His Image

Not long ago I was reading through the first chapter of the book of Genesis. I’ve read this maybe dozens of times, and even noticed what I’m about to mention. But for some reason, it hit me harder than it has in a while.

As you read the creation account of Genesis 1, over and over you read, “And God said”. God spoke most of creation into being, until He got to the last step. Starting in verse 26, it says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our own image, according to Our likeness’” (emphasis mine). It goes on to say God created man in His own image, male and female. Up to that point, God had declared each step of creation good; when He finished creating humans, He declared it “very good”. Mankind was the crowning achievement of creation.

It’s important to notice what is happening here. God found it sufficient to simply speak most of creation into existence. But when it came to man and woman, God chose a more personal, hands-on approach. Chapter 2 of Genesis tells how God took the dust of the ground and formed man and breathed the breath of life into him. When it was found that no suitable helper for man existed among all creation, God took a rib from man’s side and formed woman. She was not an afterthought but the perfect complement to the man. The strengths and weaknesses of each fit perfectly with the other. To them was given the task of ruling over the rest of creation, and to ‘be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it’ (1:27). They were to be the caretakers and to populate the earth.

What does it mean to be “the image of God”? There’s been a great deal of discussion about the meaning of that phrase, and I will freely confess I have no hard and fast answer. I would suggest we are unique among creation in that we are told we have a soul and a spirit, which is not spoken of as being present in any other part of creation. I’d further suggest that Genesis 2:7, where God is said to “breathe into {man’s} nostrils the breath of life” could indicate this. Nowhere else in the creation narrative is it mentioned that God did this. The way God chose to create man and woman is radically different from the rest of creation.

When we understand and accept we are unique in all creation because we bear the image of God Himself, it is both humbling and terrifyingly seductive. It was the weak spot that Satan exploited when he tempted the woman in the Garden. He began by causing her to question God’s command, especially the consequence of doing what was forbidden. Satan then pulled out THE LIE. First, it was, “You surely will not die!”. Then he followed up with the coup de grace: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 2:4-5) In other words, God was holding out on them because He knew they would no longer need Him; they could run their own lives. The unspoken lie: you don’t need God. It’s the same lie that Satan told himself when he rebelled against God, and is still the same lie he tells us in a million different forms every day.

With that first bite, we were no longer the reflection of God’s glory, the pinnacle of His creation. Our relationship with Him was broken, and God banished us from His presence, being unable and unwilling to tolerate sin in His presence. Lest you heap all the blame on the woman, read a little further. The next verse says that “she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate”. Think of what that’s really saying. The man was standing there watching all of this happen and said or did nothing. Other than giving the woman God’s command regarding the tree (which apparently, he didn’t even get right, or chose to add his own interpretation), he did nothing to intervene and stop her. He fell right along with her.

We still suffer the aftereffects of that first act of disobedience. We are born and live in a world corrupted by sin. A world that tells us, “You can be your own god. You create your own reality, your own truth, and no one has the right to question it.” Instead of humbly seeking to reflect the glory and image of the One who created us, we glorify ourselves. In our pride and arrogance, we seek to satisfy our own desires and lusts because we’re told we ‘deserve’ it, that it’s our ‘right’ to have it, that we’re “worth it”. We glorify the rich, the strong, the ruthless even while we envy them because we covet what they have.

Saddest of all, we fail to recognize that all men and women are made in the image of God. We hate those who are different than we are, be it because of skin color, nationality, religion, or opinion. Americans are conditioned to hate the Russians because we are told they are “evil” and a threat to our country and the world. Those who choose to see themselves as ‘victims’ (as opposed to those who have actually been victimized and exploited) hate whatever group they perceive as those who are ‘victimizing’ them. Those who preach loudest about tolerance have the greatest amount of hatred and intolerance for those they consider ‘intolerant’ (and usually ‘inferior’).

Why do we do it? Because we all live under the lie that we define our own right and wrong, that no one has the right to tell us what to do, and that anyone who is different from me or holds a “wrong” idea (that is, one different from what I inflexibly believe) needs to be ‘cancelled’, exiled from public life, or in extreme cases, eradicated. We refuse to allow anyone who is different to have a voice or a presence. It’s ‘our way or the highway’.

God knew before the beginning of creation what would happen. In order to have people who chose to love and obey Him it was necessary to allow them the choice to disobey. Satan, the great liar and deceiver, made that disobedience so attractive it seemed almost like a good thing. Rather than abandon mankind for all time (He did completely destroy life in Genesis 6 with the exception of Noah and his family, and the animals on the ark with them), God put a plan in place to pay the price for sin, and break the power of Satan, sin, and death. He came to earth in the person of His son Jesus, born fully human yet still fully God, exposed Himself to every temptation known to man, overcame them all, and voluntarily died on a cross to pay the penalty that rightfully belonged to us.

Those who choose to believe Him, repent of their rebellion (turn away from sinning), and obey Him through baptism become God’s possession. When we surrender our sinful selves, with all of our pride and arrogance, selfish desires, and ‘rights’, God will restore His image in us. He will give us His Spirit to let us shine with His glory. For that, indeed is the glory of mankind: not a false glory of our own devising, but a reflected glory of the One who formed us, breathed life into us, and pronounced us “very good”.

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