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.
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.