All of us bear the image of the God who created us. If all of us realized what that meant, the world would be a far different place in which to live.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.... And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:27, 31). Perhaps the above is the most profound and inspiring theological statement in the entirety of the Bible. Man had been created in the express image of the living God! What an incredible, awe-inspiring thought! What implications it has! Consider for a moment what it means to bear the image of God. Every human being who has ever walked the face of this good green earth has borne the likeness of God — no matter how tall, short, maimed, crippled, sick, healthy or whatever. No matter what race or ethnic group one has sprung from — he or she bears the image of God. Eve is described as "the mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20). Eve bore the image of God equally with Adam. And she was created "very good." All races sprang from the womb of mother Eve. Adam is the father of the human race. Theologically speaking, we have all descended from that "one blood" (Acts 17:26), and we are all, in that sense, the "offspring of God" (Acts 17:29). The mingled blood of Adam and Eve runs in the veins of every living human being, and that blood bears "the image of God." The implications of that statement could revolutionize the whole of human relationships on this planet — if we could only understand and embrace them! What does it truly mean to be in God's own image? Is this merely talking about the physical resemblance of man to God? Or does it imply much more? Much more indeed! Of all God's created creatures man is truly unique. Man alone has humor, creativity, imagination. Man was created transcendentally higher than any other life form. Man stands at the head of the creation, bearing qualities unheard of in the lower animal world. Man is the very apex of God's creative acts, the Creator's pinnacle of achievement. And as such, man stands alone in the universe. Man is above it all. Man alone is "the offspring of God"! Even the angels of God were created as "ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those (humans) who are to obtain salvation" (Heb. 1:14). Man was created to rule, to have dominion. He was given authority to rule over this planet now, in this life. But his potential was even greater: "For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, 'What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him? Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet' " (Heb. 2:5-8). Did you catch that? God has crowned man with glory and honor — now, in this life! And how has He done so? By placing him at the head of His creation — by giving him dominion over the rest of the world. Man has been given authority and power to rule because he reflects the image of his ruling Creator. God is a ruler, a governor, a king. Man is not an animal, because he bears his Creator's image. Man's intrinsic human qualities place him on a far higher plane of existence than any in the animal world. Man is the child of God, the finest product of the ultimate Mind. God is seen in man in a way that He is seen in no other aspect of the Creation. Man was not meant to grovel. Man was not meant to be subjected to indignities at the hands of his fellowman. Does God insult God? Yet man's inhumanity to man is a massive insult to the image of God which he bears.
Racism an Affront to God's Image
Racism is an insult to the image of God. Every race of man bears equally the image of the Creator! There is no "master race," Adolf Hitler's obscene theories notwithstanding. In the sight of God we all came from that one blood. And all of mankind was intended to enter into a relationship with the Creator whose image it bears: "And he made from one [blood — KJV] every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27). God is no less distant from the black man than from the white. All human beings, no matter their skin color or ethnic origin, were intended by God to ultimately enter into a relationship with Him.
The Church is the body of Christ, and its doors are open to all. The apostle Paul explained that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
God is not exclusively a God of the Jews, or the Christians, or the Caucasians. God is the God of the whole universe! He is the Creator. He is the life-giver and the source of salvation. God has opened the way, through Christ, for every human being, all of whom bear His image, to enter into a one-on-one relationship with Him. In Old Testament times, only the Israelites were given national access to God. Others had to enter the community of Israel before they could become adherents of the true faith. This is no longer the case. The Church is the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). It is the "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). And its doors are open to all. The apostle Paul explained: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). What a liberating statement! All are one in Christ! All have access to God through Christ — Jews, Greeks, blacks, whites, Indians, Orientals. God is an "equal opportunity salvation granter"! God rejects no one from His Kingdom. All may enter into the body of Christ who bear His image!
Woman Not Inferior
God does not consider women inferior beings, second-class citizens. They bear equally with men the image of God. The human race was created "male and female" (Gen. 1:27). And God is not concerned with human status and class structures. To Him there is only one class of human beings — those who bear His image. There are no slaves, no sub-humans. Such distinctions exist only in the human realm. It is man who has subjected man to indignities. It is man who has made man grovel and suffer — not God. God offers salvation from suffering. God offers emancipation. God offers man the opportunity to fulfill his own incredible potential. No man has the right to subject his fellow to the indignity of racism, torture or pain. No man has the right to insult the image of God in his fellowman. Man was created with dignity, with dominion, with a brilliant creative mind that reflects that of his Creator.
Man Is Deceived
But man has degenerated. Man has lost sight of who he is. Man has groveled because he has listened to the spirit of error. Man has been influenced by that deceptive spirit called "the devil" (Rev. 12:9; II Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-2). Satan has sought to destroy man's dignity; to cause him to lose sight of his own potential. And to a large extent he has succeeded. But the brilliant light of God's truth is breaking forth into a darkened world. The plain truth is that man bears the image of God. He is not an animal. He was not made for indignity and insult. Someday man will rule over the angels (I Cor. 6:3). Someday man will ascend to the height to which his Creator intended him to rise. Man must bear his cross for a while, but someday things will be different: "Now in putting everything in subjection to him [man], he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him" (Heb. 2:8). Today man is crippled. Man has not yet come into his full, glorious potential. His progress has been withheld. He lives in a world dominated by "spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). The light of God's truth about man has been all but snuffed out. Man has lost his way. He "gropes at noonday as in the night" (see Isa. 59:10). Stumbling along in a spiritually darkened world, man insults the image of God in himself as a way of life. Man kills. Man robs. He rapes and pillages. Man treats human life as if it were a cheap, expendable commodity meaning nothing. Dictators dictate and the masses suffer. Throughout man's history the world has been plagued by its Hitlers and its Stalins. In the name of power, man tortures, maims and bludgeons his fellowman' in a continual orgiastic violation of human rights. In the name of God man practices racism. Bigotry and prejudice seep through the human heart like a deadly juice poisoning relationships and causing untold suffering. The bigots rise up in holy horror when their racism is labeled for what it is. "Not guilty!" they exclaim. "Guilty as charged!" counters God. Man is guilty before God. Guilty of violating God's own image, of insulting it, of blinding his eyes from seeing it in others. Male man suppresses female man, who is equally the bearer of God's image. Male chauvinism is as old as the hills of Mesopotamia and Palestine. Yet those who are most guilty will justify their posture by using the Bible: "Wives, obey your husbands," said the apostle Paul. Yes, he did say that. But he also said, "Husbands, love your wives." He did not say to suppress them, squelch them and treat them as second-class citizens. Husbands and wives are described in the Bible as "heirs together of the grace of life" (I Pet. 3:7).
Barriers based on feelings of superiority and inferiority should not exist between members of the human race. One race should not feel inferior to, or superior to, another. One sex should not be made to feel inferior to another. Nor should a person's occupation, or lack of one, cause him to feel lower than some other human being. Yes, physical differences do exist between races and sexes. And people do live at different levels of human achievement and economy. But all of this is within the greater context of God's image which has been impressed upon the whole of the human race. Man has no justification for insulting the image of God in his fellowman. As Paul said, "They are without excuse...." Man should be able to see the image of his Creator in the created universe. He should be able to see it in himself — the very apex of that creation. Paul pointed this out to the Romans: "Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20). Man stands indicted by the very creation of which he is a part. God's personality is everywhere! It is to be seen in the magnificent design of the universe. It can be seen in the vast size and scope of the cosmos and in the microcosms of the earth's ecosystems. His power, His wisdom, His incredible intelligence, His deity is to be seen everywhere in His creation. But nowhere is the image of God to be seen more clearly than in man himself. Yet man has failed to recognize his own Father. Man has failed to see within himself a touch of the divine. Man has been blinded to the reality of his own intrinsic worth and to the vastness of his own incredible potential.
A Reprobate Mind
And so God gave man up to a base or "reprobate" mind (Rom. 1:28). In this state man daily insults the image of God which he bears. Man becomes "filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Rom. 1:29-31). Here is the sad picture of man cut off from God. This is "secular man," man stripped of the knowledge of who and what he is. Here is a graphic picture of humanistic man unaware that he is "the offspring of God." Those upon whom the light of God's glorious truth has shone have an obligation to live up to their own image — to the image of God in themselves — and in others. The knowledge of who and what we are demands a change of outlook. It demands a response to God. It requires a shedding of the "old nature" — that blinded mentality in which we all did that which comes naturally. It requires a new outlook, a new respect for the divine image in ourselves and in others. Paul put it this way: "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here [in the body of Christ] there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:9-11). In the knowledge that we are all created in the express image of God, the barriers fall like tenpins in a bowling alley. The artificial barriers that have divided man from man throughout his whole history are broken down in Christ (see Ephesians 2:14). Man, in Christ, is emancipated from his own ignorance. Man now begins to comprehend who and what he is, and where he is going. Man begins to see God, in Christ, in himself. Man gains dignity and self-respect. Man is in God and God is in man. And when the white light of this realization breaks through with full import, behavior changes drastically. A new nature — the divine nature (II Peter 1:4) — begins to assert itself. Man is compelled, by virtue of his knowledge, to treat his fellowman with love and dignity, recognizing in him the image of God. Bigotries dissolve like morning fog before a rising sun. Hatreds disintegrate. Violence is transformed into gentleness and concern. The beauty of God's image breaks through like an exotic balm, like a precious spiritual ointment, soothing, cooling, and healing the mind of man. Man is transformed. His mind is renewed. His self-image is changed. When fully understood for all of their power and import, it is perhaps true to say that the Bible contains no greater words than those found in Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image...."