Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
I’ve long been been fascinated with the notion of humans created in the “image of God” (v.27). I’ve often thought of this as a physical resemblance, that people are somehow created in a form similar to God. Certainly looking at Christian art through the centuries one might get this idea. For instance, the painting above is probably familiar. It’s a well-known fresco by the artist Michelangelo called “creation of Adam”. It’s painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, which I would love to see one day. In this work of art God appears as a majestic version of Adam, which may be one reason I’ve always thought of “image of God” as describing a similarity in physical form.
However, as I reflect on these verses today I’m thinking differently. If you’ve been reading along the Moravian Daily Texts you’ve just finished reading the entire bible and have begun again at the book of Genesis. Reading through the Old Testament it becomes clear that Israel was often in conflict with God, struggling to live into the values of God: compassion for the poor, advocacy for the lowly, humility before God and man.
One frequently mentioned sin of Israel was their ongoing acts of piety in the temple of God while at the same time violating God’s character by oppressing the poor, neglecting the widow and orphan, worshipping idols, and more. In other words, they fulfilled the letter of the law but failed to embrace the point of the law – becoming a people whose values and practices on earth revealed the priorities and character of their God in heaven. In other words, they failed to live into the “image of God”.
So this morning I’m pondering the implications for this understanding of being made in God’s image. Both for myself personally and for the church I lead. In what ways am I/we living in ways that reflect the image of God? Where am I/we falling short of God’s purposes for human creation? What is something concrete I can embrace in this new year to more closely reflect the image of God? Lord let it be so. Amen.