The Spittin’ Image of God

The other day I met someone who knows my son, but hadn’t met me yet. It went something like this: “Oh, I know whose dad you must be!” and “Wow, your son looks exactly like you!” My usual response: “Yeah, I know. Poor kid.”

Why does my kid look like me? Of course genetics has a lot to do with it. We’ve also spent 14 years together, so for better or worse, he’s picked up quite a few of my mannerisms, habits, phrases, and quirks, not to mention an outstanding sense of style. He is, as they say, my spittin’ image.

Did you know that YOU are made in God’s “spittin’ image”? In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, you’ll find an astounding affirmation of the dignity and worth of every human being: “God created humankind in his own image…” (Genesis 1:27). Take a moment and think of the best of humanity and the ultimate in human achievement, and perhaps you’ll be approaching what it means to be made in the image of God. Who do you think of? Perhaps a humanitarian, an athlete, an artist, or perhaps someone unknown but beloved. That person was made in the image of God.

And yet take a moment to think of the worst of humanity, the depths of depravity and human evil. Who do you think of? Perhaps an infamous criminal, dictator, or terrorist, or perhaps someone obscure that has done unspeakable harm to you. That person too was made in the image of God. How can this be?

Genesis was originally written in the Ancient Near East. The ancient kings there laid claim to their far-flung territories by setting up large statues of themselves. These statues were made in the image of the king, there to remind everyone who was in charge. This is the same idea that Moses, the author of Genesis, apparently had in mind when he first wrote those inspired words: “God created humankind in his own image…” Human beings are here on earth as God’s royal representatives. We’re not just here by accident. We’re not created out of conflict and chaos, as all the other ancient creation stories claimed. We’re here on purpose: created to create, blessed to be a blessing, made good to do good.

Every person you’ve ever met, and every person in human history, is one of God’s royal representatives here on earth. This is why we affirm the unparalleled dignity and value of every single human life, whether she or he be the tiniest of babies in a mother’s womb, or the eldest of the elderly among us, or anyone in between. There will always be some who deny the inherent dignity of others, but the downtrodden and the marginalized are made in the image of God too.

It is often hard to fathom why, or how, someone made in the image of God can do the terrible things that we are all capable of. But then we turn the page to Genesis 3. Evil entered the world when human beings rebelled against God’s good grace, and we’ve been stained and twisted ever since. So we are all a bit of a paradox: made in the image of God, but broken and twisted. We’re still made “very good,” but things quickly go very bad.

But right on the heels of our rebellion, God promised to fix it (see Genesis 3:15). He didn’t want to leave his royal representatives stained and twisted. Fast-forward thousands of years as God’s rescue plan unfolds, and the true Image of God arrives on earth: baby Jesus. We wouldn’t have guessed it, but this Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus was and is the unstained and untwisted true Image of God: his true royal representative here on earth. He came to show us how to live as people made in the image of God. He came to undo the brokenness of humanity. And he came to sacrifice his perfect life to pay the penalty of our rebellion. Jesus ultimately came to restore you to the true image of God.

So I don’t know if you’re the spittin’ image of one of your parents, but I do know that you’re gloriously made in the image of God. That alone is worth celebrating. Yet it is even more glorious to be re-made into the image of God by Jesus himself, otherwise you’re stuck in your rebellion and eternally separated from God. You too can be made new by turning from your rebellion and trusting and following Jesus, the true Image of God.