Fundamental to the biblical account of life is the notion that to be human is to bear the image of our Creator (Genesis 1:26-28).
Throughout the centuries theologians have debated what this means. Theologians commonly assumed that “image” referred to a particular quality that was unique to humanity—distinguishing them from the animals. Was this our capacity to reason?Our possession of a soul? Our ability to relate to God? Was it something to do with our physique?
In recent years biblical scholars have suggested that to see humanity as the image of God refers not so much to a particular quality we possess but rather to a function we fulfil. To be the image of God is to represent God upon the earth.
People in the Ancient Near East were familiar with the idea of an image as a representation of somebody else. Idols would be seen as representing the gods. It was a common practice for kings to place images of themselves throughout their realm. When any person looked at the image they knew that it represented the king.
Additionally, people in the Ancient Near East were familiar with hearing their rulers described as the image of the gods, which was understood to mean that these rulers represented their gods on earth.
Genesis draws on this idea and radically democratises it. Not just kings, but all people are created in God’s image and therefore are God’s appointed representatives on earth.
If this line of reasoning is correct, then we are created to reflect God to one another. To be fully and completely human is to embody the character and the purposes of God in our lives and in our communities. We are to be people who love as God loves; who show compassion as God shows compassion; who forgive as God forgives; who act with integrity as God acts with integrity; and who pursue justice as God pursues justice.
We are created to live a life of love, grace, generosity, kindness, and faithfulness and to build communities that bear those same characteristics. When you and I engage in acts of love, compassion, generosity, kindness and faithfulness… we are being the people God created us to be.
This is a short excerpt from the book by Reverend Scott Higgins, “The Single Thing That Can Change The World”. To order the full book, go to: baptistworldaid.org.au/single-thing-can-change-world