Imago Dei

The Imago Dei, or the image of God is (ironically) the thing that makes us human. In other words, what defines us as human beings, and what separates from the animals, is that we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). But what does that mean exactly?

In Spiritual Blueprint, I tackled this question as a way to begin talking about the way we can create order out of chaos in our lives. So here’s what I think it means to be made in the image of God:

We are creative. Although only God is Creator, God has granted something of the ability to create to us, the creatures. This is most obvious in the things we create purely for their aesthetic value – that is, we create art. We create music, and paintings and sculptures (and things that aren’t paintings or sculptures) just for the sake of creating something that is beautiful or unique. We can create something the world has never seen or heard before, and in doing that, we are a little like God. In fact, some of the best art in the world has been created out of a sense of gratitude toward God and to glorify God.

Things that aren't paintings or sculptures...

We are rational. God creates order out of chaos, and we have that ability as well. As God is rational, so are we, and in fact God has given us what is perhaps the greatest gift of all – free will. We don’t operate just on instinct, but we have the power of forethought and the ability to make decisions about our own future. This means that we have not only the ability, but also the responsibility, to live intentionally. We don’t have to just let life happen to us, we can really live it.

We are loving (or at least we have the potential to be). Jesus modeled for us the way to live motivated by love and gratitude toward God and by love and compassion for others. We can love because God loved us first, and one of the ways we love God back is by “paying it forward” and loving others. As humans, we have the unique ability to care for others even when it is inconvenient for us.

We are spiritual. Obviously, God is Spirit, but we are also created to be spiritual beings and have a spiritual relationship with God, our Creator. Here’s a quote from the book on this point: “And since we are created for a relationship with God, no human person can truly be fulfilled in life without a relationship with God, and with other people who are also in relationship with God. Many people who think they have their lives all figured out nevertheless live with a nagging uneasiness because they have neglected this part of life. They may reject religion as a crutch, or a naive delusion, but nevertheless they live with an emptiness that only God can fill. On the other hand, we have to keep in mind that the solution is not a passive adherence to a cookie-cutter religion, or an unthinking conformity to someone else’s version of spirituality. This is because each of us is unique, and each one of us was created to have our own unique relationship with God that is personal and intentional.”

We were created to be in a relationship with God. Not that anyone expects perfection, but just to acknowledge that we’re on the journey. And the image of God in us is the thing that allows us to rise above our worst selves and move toward our best selves, and in fact move toward God. We have the ability to do it, but we can’t do it alone.

Do you know why Bruce Willis and David Caruso are in Piazza Navona?

Jim Papandrea

Author of Spiritual Blueprint: How We Live, Work, Love, Play and Pray

About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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4 Responses to Imago Dei

  1. Emily says:

    I find your thoughts intriguing- nonetheless, as a secular humanist I am neither empty spiritually, nor bereft of a feeling or feelings of deep spiritual connection to humans and to the environment we share. I’ve never denied myself to be instilled with wonder at our world, but I will not ever consider it’s mysteries to be attributed to an all-powerful being, either! It’s an interesting thought, to me, and maybe it makes some people feel comforted that they are not “alone”, however, I do not think we are ever alone really- our community makes us together! I think science and spirit are undeniably connected- ever read “The Creation”, by E.O. Wilson? I love his parallel mental drawings of science as a profoundly spiritual exploration and importantly focuses less on the mystery than on the knowing. As humans we tend to focus on the unknown when we could spend more time developing a story on what is known- the familiar. It is there we find most of the answers!

  2. Emily,
    Thanks for your response. I haven’t read the book you mentioned, but all I can say this: It is only the one who has experienced both having and not having something that can understand the difference. I talk to people all the time who don’t have a relationship with God and their responses are very much like yours, but the best I can say is, you don’t know what you’re missing. I speak from my own experience, that’s all I can do.

  3. Emily says:

    Well Jim, so I’ve heard. But since I don’t believe in God, I don’t feel the need to have a relationship with him to understand the differences between knowing and not knowing- just as you have a profound experience because you believe there is a God makes you believe you need him. This is, like I said, is interesting to me, but I’ve spent very little time in my life feeling like I’m missing something. I’ve thought a great deal about this and with great certainty do not think of believers as deluded or wrong necessarily, but I find some of the spiritual messages sent by the idea of a God as man, or even a single GOD for example, to be flawed. If I were to walk around and title myself as an atheist, though, I’d be under a lot of scrutiny- even these days. So I don’t call myself one, because really, I’m a believer, my interpretation is just different!

  4. Well, Emily, I hear you saying you don’t feel the need for God in your life, but most often people do feel like they need something, they just don’t know it’s God that they need, and I suspect that’s what’s going on here. The point of Spiritual Blueprint is that there are five areas of life – If you feel like your life is perfect in the other four areas: you have a clear sense of purpose, calling and vocation in life, your relationships have no room for improvement, your home life is peaceful and in order, and your mind is happy and occupied with worthwhile passions, then you can say you don’t need God – but if there is room for improvement in these areas, I would argue that what is missing is the fifth area of life – a relationship with your Creator. I realize it’s not something that one can be convinced about with logic, but as you are someone who is well read, you probably know about Pascal’s wager. So if your life is anything less than perfect (and this doesn’t even touch on the issue of the afterlife), then I would challenge you to invite God into your life. If nothing happens, you haven’t lost anything, but if you really want to claim with integrity that your life is complete as it is, then open yourself up to God – throw out a “God if you’re there then show me” kind of prayer and really be open to having your own experience of God in your life – and see what happens. What have you got to lose?

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