Tuesday, January 18

For in God's Image

Whoever sheds human blood,

by other humans

must his blood be shed;

for in God’s image

God has made mankind.


(Genesis 9:6 NET)


If you've read here much, you know I don't get political very often. Actually, I don't know if I've ever done a political post. I just don't feel comfortable dealing with political issues since it's not an area I'm all that interested in or know a whole lot about. So my political neck stays pretty close to my shoulders. Some of you may think this post is political. It might be, but if it's political, then the realm of the political is entered through the door of scripture: the scripture quoted for you above from Genesis 9.

Here's my rough paraphrase of what that text says: God values human life. He values human life so much that he requires that the life be taken from anyone who kills another human being. The reason human life has this much worth to him is because God has made humans in his own image.

Our true value, then, lies in the image of God that we bear. It is because of the reflection of himself that God sees in us that our lives have such significance to him. Our significance does not lie in our abilities, or in our complexity; but simply in our humanity, because being human makes us bearers of God's image.

We aren't told what being made in God's image entails, just that we are made that way, so we need to be careful when we define the image of God. I've seen lists made of what is included in being made in God's image--like being able to make choices, or having dominion over the earth--and it may be that these are part of the picture. It's more likely, I think, that these are not traits that define the image of God, but rather, traits that grow out of being made in the image of God. What we can know for sure from the information we are given is that those listed traits are not the essence of image bearing. The essence of image bearing is just being human.

The problem with writing lists of what it means to be made in God's image is that there are going to be human beings that are unable to do any of those things, or are less able to do them than my dog is. Yet they have much more value to God than my dog (cute as she may be!), because when he looks at them he sees himself in some way. Certainly, animals are important to God, for they are part of his handiwork; and I have no doubt that he enjoys them and values them, and so should we! Humans are his handiwork too, but that is not the sole source of our importance to him. What makes us more important than the rest of his creatures is that of all the creatures, we are the ones that carry his image. If someone is human--if there is human life--then there is great worth to God, and there should be great worth to us.

Whether that human life can interact with us, or is even aware that we exist, does not seem to be a factor in the value God places on them, and it should not be a factor in the value we place on them either. If the life is human, then we need to value that person made in God's image enough to do what we can to preserve them, to care for them, and to give them the best existence--the best life--that is possible for them. God, whose image it is that gives them value, is the only one who has the right to take their life from them, or to prescribe the circumstances under which it is permissible and right to take their life.

What does this mean for me? It means I need to ask myself: What am I doing to show that I value human life the way that God does? How am I working to preserve human life? What am I doing to care for other human beings? How am I working to alleviate human suffering in order to give a better existence to those who are God's image bearers?
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