This is Part 2 of 3 in this series. If you haven’t done so yet, make sure to check out Part 1 first.
It seems like life would be so much easier if everything was just black and white, if I could separate everything into categories of good and bad. It’s much more difficult to live in the grey and to hold opposing realities in tension, but that seems to be how God created the world. Maybe it’s because of his desire for deep relationship with us. If life was so simple and easy to figure out, it would eliminate the need for trust and dependence on God. Isn’t that the temptation that the serpent presented Eve with in the garden? He made her believe that she could have all wisdom and knowledge apart from God, and that seemed very appealing. (Genesis 3:5-6)
But the truth that is presented in the Bible is full of paradoxes that we must try to reconcile. We see that God is holy and that his wrath is ignited against evil but also that he is full of mercy and forgiveness. We are taught that we must give if we want to receive. We see Christ’s power displayed not through force and conquest but through laying down his life. As we consider the myth of good guys vs. bad guys, there is one more paradox that we need to face. As humans, we have all been made in the image of God and yet we each have the capacity for evil.
Genesis 1:26-27 says,
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Each person who walks this earth was created in the image of God. This means that each human, no matter where they are born, was created with purpose to reflect God. We were created with love, goodness, intelligence, and strength. We were given the ability to reason and to create. We were made for relationship with both God and our fellow humans.
As I consider what it means to be created in God’s image, I think about my children. Each of them was shaped from my DNA so they resemble me in certain ways, and yet they are each unique. They have intrinsic value to me simply because they are a part of me, and the love I feel for them runs deeper than I could express. My desire for them is that they would be healthy and whole, and that they would know that they are loved.
When God created us in his image, he created us as his children. Each person is a unique expression, but we were each made to reflect God. Each human has inherent value and is worthy to be loved because we are children of God. And God’s desire for each of his children is that we would know his love and that we would flourish.
Along with the incredible gift of bearing God’s image and the value that is implied in that, there is also a responsibility that humans have been given. God gave humans the task of ruling over creation and having dominion in the earth. Each person has been given power to impact the world the around us. God desires that we would do so with the well-being of all his creation in mind. But sometimes, we misuse the power that we have been given.
We see very quickly in the Bible that God’s children used their free will to seek their own gain and thus sin entered the world. This is the dilemma that continues to infect our world. With the power we have been given, we have the choice to reflect the image of God within us and uphold the image of God in others or to crush others in an attempt to get what we think we deserve. The temptation to do the latter is present for all of us.
It might be easy to look at the heinous acts that others commit and think that we would never be capable of committing such evil, but the path that leads to that kind of darkness starts with small seeds in our hearts. When Jesus is teaching the crowds of people during the Sermon on the Mount, he talks about murder and adultery, acts that would be considered serious offenses. But he tells them that anyone who harbors anger in their hearts or who looks at a woman lustfully is just as guilty as those who commit murder or adultery (Matthew 5). In saying this, Jesus is pointing out the danger of what might seem like small offenses that are hidden deep within people’s hearts. Those small seeds of anger and lust influence the way that we interact with others, and when they are not confronted and dealt with, they grow and fester. That anger can eventually lead to murder and that lust can eventually lead to adultery.
People do not go from innocent baby to murderer overnight. There is a long road that leads there, filled with trauma and pain, anger and sorrow. Each person has a story. It’s much easier to call someone an animal, to discount their humanity, and to write them off than to consider their story, where they came from, and how they got to where they are. That story does not justify any wrongdoing and it doesn’t remove responsibility, but it is important to understand.
God’s heart breaks when he sees his children, who have been made in his image, stray from the people he has created them to be. But his love never changes.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
That same gospel that’s true for me is true for those I would rather condemn or destroy. If I believe the gospel, I must recognize that there cannot be good guys vs. bad guys. Instead, we are all dearly loved children of God, created in his image. And we all have brokenness and darkness that we need to confront. The purpose of Jesus’ life and death and the mission that he passed onto us is to bring restoration in light of those two realities.
Steps for further reflection:
Ask God to help you see his image in those you would consider your enemies.
Ask God to reveal to you the darkness in your heart that you need to confront.
Make sure to check out Part 3 of this series.