Throughout the centuries, theologians have grappled with the concept of the image of God. Some of this discussion has centered around whether the image pertains to who man is or to what man does. Is it within his essence? Is the image found in man's function as steward over creation? Or is it both? I believe that a comprehensive approach to describing the image of God provides the best opportunity to understanding this important biblical doctrine.
We have been forever stamped with the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 speaks of God creating man in His image and giving him stewardship over creation. Even the fall in the Garden of Eden could not obliterate this image. This creative act of God placed within man a uniqueness not given to any other part of creation. Man is made up of mind, will, and emotions. He has a personality, and because he is endowed with God's communicable attributes, man is able to have a relationship with God.
Additionally, man is a moral agent capable of making moral decisions. Unlike animals who are driven by instinct, man has a will that can choose either right or wrong according to God's standard. With his God-given mental capabilities, man can reason and exercise creativity. This mental ability displays itself when humanity fulfills the creation mandate to subdue the earth. In fulfilling this mandate, knowledge is acquired and technology is employed to make life better. Contrary to some popular thought, man is not an intruder on planet earth. He is the chief resident serving as caretaker.
On a practical level, the concept of the Image of God should affect how we treat others. James 3:8-10 says that out of respect for God, we should respect others. Simply put, because our fellow man bears God's image, we should treat him or her with respect. Therefore, human life is to be respected and treated as precious because we bear God's image.
Our worth originates from God. The life of the unborn baby, the young lady caught up in sex trafficking, or the aids orphan in Africa all have value. They all bear the image of God.
"Red or yellow, black or white they are precious in His sight."
The Image of God knows no racial or socio-economic barriers.
The image of God should also affect how I live my life. When Jesus was questioned about paying taxes in Mark 12, he asked for a coin. When a coin was brought to him, he asked whose inscription was on the coin. The answer was "Caesar's."
Jesus then said, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."
In other words, if Caesar's image is on the coin, then give it back to him. Whatever has God's image on it should be given back to God.
We have God's image on our lives. Therefore, our responsibility is to give our lives back to God. That is called surrender.
If I want the doctrine of the image of God to impact my life, then I must be willing to surrender my life back to God on a daily basis.
In the Gospels, Jesus spoke of taking up the cross and following Him daily. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul spoke of presenting our lives as a living sacrifice to God. Surrender is our acknowledgement that we bear the image of God.
The first part of surrendering to God is salvation. Salvation is made possible because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took upon Himself human flesh. In His humanity, Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Word and the Will of the Father. In His human flesh, Jesus died a sacrificial death on our behalf. His death was sufficient payment for the penalty of sin. Because our sin debt has been paid, we can be made right with God.
The thought that the Son of God would die for our sins further illustrates the value that God has placed upon us. He didn't have to do it, but He chose to make us in His image and to redeem us at His own expense. Knowing what God has done for us makes it easier to surrender to Him.