Teaching Your Children What it Means to be Created in the Image of God
Papa, do we (humans) look like God?
That question came up a number of years ago as I was driving with a few of our grandchildren. We were talking about the recent birth of a new cousin. I had reminded them that all humans were created in the image of God, hense the question. My answer surprised them, as it does many Christians. “No, we don’t look like God,” I said. “That’s not what the Bible means when it says that we were created in the image of God.
So, what follows is the framework for a discussion you may want to have with your children or grandchildren this Christmas as we think about the birth of Jesus. The amazing distinction between God, humans and animals is often blurred in movies and fiction.
Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24. From that verse and what we read in Revelations and elsewhere that God doesn’t look like us, nor do we look like God. In his normal state, he is a spirit.
It is true, God has taken on human form as he did when he visited Abraham (Genesis 18) and of course when God incarnate came in the form of Jesus, he became a human. And, scripture speaks about the Father and the Son, strong visual images that appear to make God “look like us.”
In the image of God However, when the Bible uses the term in God’s own image, as applied to humans, it means we have been given some of the attributes or qualities of God. We’ve been made in his likeness. Some of the ways we are like God, but to a limited degree include;
1. The ability to create Like God, humans can imagine something that does not currently exist and build, paint, sculpt or describe it in writing, into existence. Humans cannot create something out of nothing, but they can shape materials into the images of their imagination.
2. Make moral decisions Like God, humans are able to know right from wrong and have the ability to make moral choices. Therefore, because humans have moral awareness, God holds us responsible for moral, or immoral choices.
3. Make choices that are just Humans, like God, cannot only make moral choices, but we can prioritize those choices to come to just and fair conclusions and outcomes. Example: We know it’s wrong to lie. However, in World War II, justice compelled European Christians to hide Jews and to lie about it to the Nazi’s. Justice and mercy required the temporary suspension of a moral commandment of God to accomplish a higher, more noble purpose – the saving of lives.
4. Love Humans, like God can love sacrificially and express that love to others. Humans are the only species on earth that will give their own lives on the behalf of complete strangers. Animals will die to protect their herd, pride or group. However, no lion will die to protect a zebra, nor will an elephant risk its life for a gorilla. But humans will actually die to protect animals. And people risk their lives for total strangers every day. Firemen run into burning buildings, go to war to protect other, and drop everything to go anywhere they are needed when natural disasters hit. The ultimate expression of love is God’s love for us; “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
5. We are spirits Humans, like God are primarily spiritual beings who temporarily live in an “earth suit,” our earthly bodies. When we die our spirit nature will live forever. The Bible makes no mention of animals having a spirit that lives beyond death. While it would be nice to think our cherished pet will be with us in heaven, the Bible is silent on this subject.
6. We are logical and intelligent
“In the beginning was the word” (logos, a Greek word meaning logic or reason) John 1:1. There is logic or order that flows from the mind of God. Likewise, humans can think logical thoughts and therefore can order their lives in ways that are productive. This God-like ability has enabled humans to solve scientific problems and build civilizations.
To be fully human is to possess these qualities of God to some degree and to use them for his intended purpose.
Because we are created in the image of God, he values human life over all other forms of life. However, it is a tragic irony that some humans will actively work to “save the whales,” or total strangers, but abort their own children!
Teach your children they are made in the image of God. He expects them to guard that gift and use that god-likeness to advance his kingdom agenda on earth.