God created every person as a unique
When I was a little girl, every time it snowed, my mom would remind me that no two snowflakes were precisely alike. I’m not sure to what degree this statement is true, but it instilled in me a unique sense of wonder. I can still picture myself peering through the window of my childhood living room, observing the snowflakes piled up on the windowsill, and admiring their differences. This whole idea—that of the incalculable amount of snowflakes that have ever fallen upon the earth, no two were identical—became my favorite thing about snow.
Similarly, individuality has become my favorite thing about humanity.
Over 100 billion people have lived upon this earth, and every one of them has been unique. They have differed in much more immense and significant ways than snowflakes. In God’s magnificent creativity, He crafted each person who has and will ever live with unique physical features, strengths, and personalities. We all have unique stories, unique accomplishments and trials, unique upbringings and backgrounds, unique desires and aspirations, and unique ways of processing, coping, and learning. There is no one else exactly like you. There is no one else exactly like your spouse. There is no one else exactly like your mom, your dad, your child, your best friend, your hairdresser, or your pastor. Our Creator individually and attentively designed each one of us. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14).
God created every person in His image
While no two human beings are exactly alike, there are also characteristics that all people share. One of these commonalities, which sets us acutely apart from the rest of creation, is that all humans are made in the image of God. The first mention of this phrase is in Genesis 1:26, to ascribe worth to humanity. We often use this phrase to ascribe worth to humanity, but to what degree do we understand its implications? They are profound. They influence every moment of every day. Descriptively, to bear God’s image means to bear God’s likeness. Functionally, it means to represent Him and to rule on His behalf. There is something about the nature of human beings that is like God, that reflects something to the world about God, that enables us to reign for God. What a trait, what a gift, and what a responsibility!
Of course, what God created perfectly in Genesis 1, Satan corrupted in Genesis 3. Like the rest of God’s good creation, we, as image-bearers of God, were marred. All people still bear God’s image simply because we are human, but we do so quite imperfectly. All of us, that is, except for Jesus.
Although Jesus is God, He is also the perfect picture of what it means to bear God’s image. Jesus, while on earth, was “the image of the invisible God” and the “exact representation of his being” (Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). In Jesus, we see an unmarred version of the image of God in humanity. He represented not only God’s nature—but also His character, His heart, and His mission—clearly and precisely. He walked in complete fellowship with the Father, and He perfectly exercised authority in the world on the Father’s behalf. Jesus was a flawless image-bearer.
Not only does Jesus model image-bearing for us, but He also opens the door for God to heal and restore that which has been corrupted in us. Those of us who are in Christ “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor 3:18). As we become more like Jesus, we become better image-bearers. We reflect God to the world with increasing accuracy, and we exercise God’s authority with an increasing degree of submission to His purposes. The Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work allows us to fulfill humanity’s original calling effectively!
God created every person for community
If God has created every individual in His image, and if He is conforming every believer to the image of Christ, how and why are we distinct from one another? How are these concepts compatible? If we were all made to represent the same God, then why do we have such different personalities and passions, and why does the Spirit apportion to us varying gifts? (1 Cor 12:4-11). The answer is clear yet astounding. God made every person to bear His image, but He never intended for anyone to bear His image alone. Even before sin marred the image, God created His first two image-bearers, “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Our triune God made His first image-bearers with apparent differences because together they accurately reflected His communal nature!
Similarly, today’s church bears God’s image far more effectively when we bear His image in community. We reflect Him most powerfully when we function interdependently, like the parts of a human body (1 Cor 12:4-20). Alone, I might be a strong representation of His eye, and my husband a strong representation of His hand. Your elders might powerfully reflect His wisdom and your deacons, His servanthood. Your small group leader might exercise God’s authority through an evangelism movement and your best friend through a fight for justice. When Christians work together, all of these traits, gifts, and passions work together in unity. When the church functions as one body made up of many parts, we represent Him holistically (1 Cor 12:20). When we depend on and serve one another, we rule on God’s behalf with both a broader scope and greater precision.
When we love one another, the world will know we are His (Jn 13:34-35)!
We must not limit the Spirit’s vital work by working out our callings in isolation. Let’s bear His image more effectively by bearing it together!
About the Contributors
Ali Zimmerman, (MACE, 2016) is a native Oklahoman but currently resides in Memphis, TN, with her husband, Steve, and her son, Luke. She is nearing the conclusion of the DEdMin program, through which she participated in the Spiritual Formation cohort. Her passions include discipleship, writing, studying God’s Word, and helping women apply it to their lives.