“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Genesis 1:26 NIV)
About a year ago, I bought a mug with a simple inscription on it. “Made in the image of God.” I bought this as a reminder for myself, because every time I drink from it, I am reminded of my identity and the call on my life to live and love like Jesus.
In Genesis 1, we see the Triune God create humanity, male and female. This is a pretty transformational passage. It is through this that we get the theological concept called, the Imago Dei, which is latin for the image of God. It is a harkening back to the above passage in Genesis. We, as humans, bear the image of the creator God. Therefore, we are always a walking example of the God who made us. Let that sink in for a moment.
Like any piece of art, you bear the signature of the Creator. There is a lot of power in that.
The idea of the Imago Dei has caused many people to speculate for centuries about what this could mean. Does the image of God mean sentience or creativity? Does it mean that God actually, physically looks like us? Or could mean something else entirely? There are a litany of ideas and theories of what this could mean, and I would like to offer mine.
I would argue that the image of God in us is the ability to live and love like Christ; doing what he did and living similarly.
While I agree that we bear the image and mark of the Creator God, I don’t believe that this image manifests in my physical appearance. I believe the Imago Dei in me, in you, in all of us, is manifested in our ability to love.
In the Gospel of Matthew 22:33-40, Jesus is asked by a teacher of the law, what is the greatest commandment. Which was no small task. There were many more commandments than just the big 10 that we often think of. Jesus responds back and says,
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV, emphasis added)
When asked, what are the two most important commandments in the entirety of the Jewish law, Jesus sums it up with love. Besides the fact that the son of God, chose these two things as the most important commandments in the whole Bible- but more specifically the Jewish law, which contained some 800 commandments- it is through these two commands, both founded in love, that the image of God shines through us.
So as I have begun to ask myself, what could the image of God mean? I think it all comes down to living and loving like Jesus.
Love God. Love others.
That’s it. We can add more to this, but we must never forget the core of the gospel is to Love God, first and foremost. And then to love everyone else. No exceptions. No stipulations. Just love.
There is so much hate and division in the world. This is not new or specific to solely our generation, but this has been an ongoing struggle for centuries and beyond. The way of Jesus, the life that we have been called to, the Imago Dei in our lives is counter cultural in the sense that it espouses a life lived in love. A life that is drenched in respect and value for God and others. So, for us to embrace the image of God in our lives starts and ends in love. Nothing more. Nothing less.
You and I both were created with the Imago Dei, with the image and marking of God. This is the calling on our lives to live in such a way that points back to the Creator. I truly believe that this is on its best display as we live and love like Jesus. And if you find your self wondering what I mean by this, just read 1 John 4:7-8, 16;
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (1 John 4:7-8, 16 NIV)
To quote the beloved sit-com, How I Met Your Mother, “Love is the best thing we do.” So this week, may we continue to grow in love, and be defined by it as well. You are made in the image of God, embrace that identity and love generously.
Love God. Love others. Be Jesus this week.