One of the most stunning expressions found in the Bible is in Genesis 1: 26-27. "Let us," God says, "make man in Our image, in Our likeness. The Scripture continues, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Two Hebrew words used here define the human essence. They are selem, which means image or representation and demut which implies comparison. When these two words are linked together they make a decisive theological statement. The essence of human nature can only be understood by comparison with God, Himself. Man can never be understood by referring back to some supposed emergence from pre-historic creatures.
God gave Adam not only physical life, but also person hood. In a totally unique creative act, God gave Adam his own capacity to think, to feel, to evaluate, to love, to make choices as a self-aware individual. As we read the Genesis account of creation, we see the emphasis on human uniqueness. The aspects of all of God's other creations were brought into being by God's spoken Word. But when it came to man, God actually stooped down and personally fashioned a physical body. Then God gently and lovingly infused that physical body with life. The Bible says, "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being," (Genesis 2:7). So that God's intention would not be mistaken, He then fashioned Eve from one of Adam's ribs. Genesis makes it very clear that Adam and Eve share the same substance. Both of them created in the image and likeness God gave to human beings alone.
The Genesis account of creation explains man's origin, but it also powerfully shapes our most basic attitude toward ourselves and others. Think about it. If we are made in the image of God, then we have worth and value as individuals. Therefore, it is totally irrelevant for us to compare ourselves with others. If our essence can be understood by comparison with God, knowing that He created us in His image, we learn to love and value ourselves as well as others.
How do you handle things that you value? You guard them, protect them, give great care to them so they will not become damaged, broken or harmed in anyway. You proudly display to others things that you value. When as humans we finally grasp the true value of being created in God's image and likeness we come to appreciate ourselves, as well. We will refuse to be degraded by others. We will reject those things that have the potential to harm us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Knowing that we bear the image and likeness of our Creator, we acknowledge that we are too significant to mar.
If all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, they too, have worth and value as individuals, no matter the weaknesses they display. When we come to the understanding that every human being shares the image and likeness of God we will treat all humans with dignity and respect. We will learn to overlook their failures and communicate God's love toward them. Christians are called to reach out to all human beings with love.
It is so unfortunate that many of our young people are no longer being taught this message. Daily we see examples of young people treating each other with total disrespect. They are mean toward each other, abusing themselves and others physically, mentally and verbally. Such behavior has and continues to cause too many of our young people to, in despair, take their own lives. And, as adults, we must ask ourselves, what kind of example are we setting for them? I have personally heard and seen adults curse their children and talk to them with words that tear their children down instead of lovingly building them up. When young people are demeaned, ignored and disregarded by the very parents who are supposed to love them they come to believe they have no value; they become damaged and broken. It doesn't help when they see adults disrespecting one another. You see grown men and women involved in road rage, parents fighting coaches at little league games, verbally abusing a teachers for doing their job, professional athletes fighting it out on the field and their own parents disrespecting each other in the home.
If men and women truly share the image and likeness of God, then every person has worth and value that is independent of sex, race, age, or social status. When we come to understand that every human being shares God's image and likeness it invites us to set aside the prejudices that drives so much of human behavior. Instead, we learn to appreciate that all people, be they male or female, young or old, rich or poor, black, yellow, white or brown have something to contribute to the family, the workplace, society and the church. We can become color-blind and ignore all of these categories, choosing to treat every person with respect and dignity.
We learn the lesson of Genesis 1: 26-27 as we come to understand just how precious we all are to God, our Creator. Pray for God to help you to see others with new eyes; to see each person as He does. Ask God to give you the ability to communicate respect and love to others.
"Remember that sharing means more than cutting a piece of cake in two equal slices. It involves your whole attitude towards the other person. Remember all the ways you are equal persons in God's estimation! Then, equalize your life to fit His opinion, not that of society around you. --Pat Gundry