Saturday, August 23, 2014

Academic Paper: The Image of God

The Bible is true and correct when it says that all people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27 [ESV]). The image of God is a description by which the Bibles show how humanity is made in the likeness of God, in personality, in morality, in value, and in immortality (Elwell, 1984, p. 592). 

Though the image of God on man was distorted by the fall, it remained in tact and is restored when faith is placed in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Elwell, 1984, p. 593). If I claim to be a Christian, and I do, then that belief must be systemically applied to every part of my life (Prov. 3:6 [ESV]). 

My current occupation is as a Caseworker at the Salvation Army church and homeless shelter in my hometown. After graduation I will most likely continue my work at Salvation Army, and eventually take classes to become an officer in the army. I best live out Genesis 1:27 by coming along side hurting people and treating them with the dignity and respect they deserve as children of God made in the image of God (1 Pet. 2:10 [ESV]). Yet many of the people I work with are not children of God, so I invite them to know Jesus Christ. Since people are made in the image of God, they ought to know God. And I may be the only gospel these people hear. 1 John 3:17 (ESV) explains the concept of sharing and caring for those around us, it says: “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” 

 The language of the Bible is very clear when dealing with other human beings. Fellow humans are called brothers, sisters, and neighbors (Mark 12:31, Prov. 3:29, 1 John 3:15 [ESV]). Fellow members of the body of Christ are called family (Matt. 12:50 [ESV]). 

An important concept is that I love because God first loved me. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) well illustrates the passing of love from God to his followers and beyond; it says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” People who are homeless, living on the street are greatly afflicted. I try to come along side them and offer them comfort in their afflictions. I do that by the grace of God, and because I am reminded how God comforted me in my afflictions in the past. No matter how low someone is, no matter what they've done, they do not “lose” the image of God which they were made in (Towns, 2008, p. 577). If I thought they were demons, or monsters or those destined for hell I would treat them as tax collectors, but I cannot say for certain where they are destined to end up, only God knows (Isa. 55:8 [ESV]). I only know that every human I meet is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27 [ESV]). 

 If God deserves respect and love for who he is, it then follows that those created in his image should be treated with love and respect as well. An important part of living out the image of God doctrine is found in the showing of mercy. Luke 6:36 (ESV) says,”Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” The fall had it's terrible effects on man and the image of God in man, but the image remains and therefore as God the Father has shown mercy on man by sending Christ Jesus to redeem sinners, I must also show incredible mercy and even grace to those lost drug addicted, alcoholic, abused, abusive, and mentally unstable I meet in my life (Towns, 2008, p. 577). Or as Rivera (2013) said,”Jesus calls us to a self-sacrificing love that pushes us past our comfort zone into a world of risk and danger” (Rivera, 2013, p. 53). 

 If my Christian worldview is to be true, coherent and pervasive throughout all aspects of my life, it must go into my workplace, home life, nights out on the town, church life, and everywhere in between. Otherwise I'm living a life that will be systemically contradictory. To summarize, the doctrine of the image of God is best put into practice by going beyond myself, stepping out of my comfort zone, and helping those in need. But it also means treating all people in the world with dignity and respect, especially when it is difficult to do so. The doctrine of the image of God shows that humanity has great value, and it shows that every person is made for the purpose of being in relation to their creator, the one who made them (Ps. 100:3 [ESV]). The best way to live out the image of God doctrine in my chosen vocation is to humbly serve those I care for, treat them with dignity and respect, and love them as children of God, inviting them to know Jesus Christ the savior of all humanity (Phil. 2:1-11 [ESV]).


Elwell, Walter A.. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1984.

Rivera, Ted. The Heart of Love: Obeying God's Two Great Commandments. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version : the ESV Study Bible.. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2008.

Towns, Elmer L.. Theology for Today. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2008.