Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (NASB)
Imago Dei is a latin term which means image of God. It is the belief that human beings were created by God in his image to be in fellowship with him and to be his stewards over all of creation. It is a simple truth but its implications are profound.
For instance, believing that every human being is created in the image of God guides us in how we treat our fellow man. This truth compels us to recognize the dignity that God himself has conferred upon everyone. The source of man’s dignity is in God and not man. We can’t give dignity to anyone because God has already done so. It is our place to recognize that God-given dignity and treat one another accordingly. When we refuse to recognize the image of God in a person or in a group of people, it is God who is being dishonored.
Esteeming people as God’s image bearers isn’t conditional. That means that both the believer and the unbeliever alike are created in the image of God. Also, no particular ethnicity is created more in the image of God than another. The born and the unborn are image bearers of God. Furthermore, Americans, non-Americans, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, the orthodox theologian, the heretic, the protestor, the looter, that homeless man that smells horrible because he hasn’t bathed in days, the prostitute on the corner selling her body, the drug addict, the drug dealer, the men and women that populate our prisons, the so-called thug, the immigrant whether legal or illegal, the white-collar worker, the blue-collar worker, the rich, the poor, the educated, the non-edcuated, the bourgie, and the down-to-earth are all created in the image of God.
Why does this matter? It matters because it is impossible to love someone that we view as subhuman. Evangelism is cold, mechanical, and even ethnocentric when the image of God is denied. Our discourse becomes disrespectful and violent because we perceive those who we disagree with us as enemies who must be subdued.
Most importantly, it matters because God actually became a human being so that other human beings might be reconciled to God and to one another. God in Christ reaffirmed the dignity of man. God in and through Christ esteems humanity. Let us affirm what God affirms and esteem what God esteems.