7.5 billion people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau that is the current estimated world population. Do you feel small yet? Some people spend crazy amounts of time and effort to create social media videos that “go viral” (meaning they hit 5 million views). We think of these people as famous when, in reality, they are only known among .0006% of the world. That’s a crazy thought, isn’t it?
How many of us gauge our worth on how many people know us, how many people like us, how we stand out in a crowd, or how much better we are than the rest? We try to be valuable by being the prettiest, the smartest, the best athlete, the richest, the strongest, the funniest, the most popular. Fill in the blank. But isn’t that a vain pursuit when the field of competition is 7.5 billion people deep? When I look at the busy anthill in my back yard I can’t pick out the strongest, the bravest, or the best ant. There are so many of them, they all look the same to me. Is that what we are? Just insignificant, unnoticeable creatures on a worldwide anthill? Are we just tiny flashes of life in the vast canvas of humanity, fading out as quickly as our sparks began? Or is there more? Is there something that separates us from the ant? Does the individual human being have value despite being lost in an endless sea of faces?
The answer to that question can be found in Genesis 1:27:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
In scholarly circles this is referred to as the Imago Dei, the image of God. This verse has huge implications! I would like to share four of them as they relate to individual worth and value. Then I will wrap up with two points on the Imago Dei in redemptive history.
1. Created: God’s Authority Over
The verse is very clear. God created us. That means once we were nonexistent and then, by God’s design and action, we came into existence. That means You and I can only exist if God causes us to exist. His authority over us is absolute. Our very ability to breathe, have form, and have consciousness depends totally on Him.
In America, many of us have fallen into the trap of viewing God’s authority through the lens of our own nation’s system of governance. We vote for those who have authority over us. The president, congressman, senators, mayors, governors, even the county sheriff. Even in churches there is danger of confusing God’s authority with our systems. Most churches still vote for their pastors, deacons, elders, and/or board members. So most of the authorities we are used to, in both the secular and religious world, are there because we placed them there. They have authority because we gave it to them. So we believe we have the choice to either give God authority over us or not.
This is faulty and dangerous thinking. Whether you voted for it or not, God has all authority over your life. He created it. The only question for us is whether we will submit or rebel. And do we honestly think that we can get away with rebelling against the very one who brought us into being? We are not autonomous. God created us. He is our authority. We are accountable to Him. All 7.5 billion of us.
2. Created For Worship.
We were not just made. We were made for a purpose. We were made in His image. We are not, as Jesus is, “the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15) He is the physical revelation of God to man. We are God’s image bearers. There are many different takes on what exactly this means because the Bible doesn’t go into detail about it. But I believe it is safe to say that it carries a certain reflective quality. In other words, we are created to reflect God’s image back to Him and to refract His image out to all creation. This is worship, reciprocating God’s glorious image back to Him and out to others.
We were made to be worshippers. All 7.5 billion of us.
3. Created With Meaning.
There is a lot of outcry in society these days. In the arena of the human rights movement, most of this outcry comes from an understanding of individual worth and dignity. Groups gather under different causes and slogans to protest, but they all are coming from a basic understanding. That is that an individual human life has worth and dignity, and somewhere along the line that worth and dignity has been denied.
This outcry gives us an important view into the assumed worldview of our society. We believe there has to be something that gives us worth as individuals. This raises an important question. Why? Why does an individual have worth and dignity?
The answer is the Imago Dei. We bear the image of God. We were carefully crafted by Him. Therefore, all of us have worth, value, and dignity.
If we were not created by God – if the evolutionary scientists are to be believed – then the human rights assertion of individual worth is quite confusing. We would have no worth or dignity. We would be universal accidents – a collection of atoms and molecules – no different than the spider you stepped on this morning or the mulch in your flower bed.
But the image of God present in each human means every individual has worth derived from God the creator. All 7.5 billion of us.
4. Created For Intimacy
Yes, we are created. And yes, we are created with worth. But even more incredible than that, we are created with worth that is most realized in the context of a relationship. Namely, our relationship with our Creator. The verse says God created man in His “own” image. Without this one word, it is possible to hear the Imago Dei in this verse as simply mechanical and nothing else. A design, intentional but unattached. But this word, His “own” image, makes it personal. It brings in a relational aspect. Man was created to bear the image of God not only as a reflection of Him, but also in relation to Him.
We bear the mark of God. Everywhere we go, we carry His image with us. A father carries a certain pride and satisfaction when he catches his son resembling him. A young boy is pleased when he notices his resemblance to his father. There is an intimate relationship between the two, expressed in their image. The father sees his “own” image in his son. God fashioned every single person in His “own” image, for relationship with Him. God wants that intimate relationship with every person. All 7.5 billion.
Twisted By The Fall
So what happened? Why is it humanity is such a mess? Why do we constantly feel inadequate, unworthy, and meaningless? We are constantly chasing after meaning and value, but never finding it. Why? If we bear the image of God, why so much emptiness, loneliness, and strife? Why does anyone ever have to protest a human rights violation?
Simple. We have rejected the very image that gave us our meaning. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, everything was turned upside down.
- We rejected God’s authority and sought to live by our own. But how can we continue breathing without the one who gave us breath?
- We stopped reflecting God’s image in worship and started living for ourselves. But in a world of 7.5 billion people selfishness can only lead to loneliness and despair.
- As we started living for ourselves we stopped seeing the value of others (See: Cain and Abel). In the post-fall reality, other people only have value to us if they can benefit us in some way. Otherwise, they are totally dispensable.
- We rejected and lost the intimacy we were intended to have with God. Now we seek to gain value and meaning in connections and relationships with others. Once again, only if they are beneficial to us. Of course, when everyone’s nature is self-benefit, everyone loses in relationship.
Do you see what happened? We left the one thing that gave us value and worth, and we started building the proverbial anthill. We stopped being individual image bearers of the Creator, and we started fading into the flashes of humanity’s canvas.
Redeemed By Jesus
Protesting is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we must. But protesting will never solve the problem. The problem is not politics, governments, systems, or institutions. The problem lies within every human heart.
The way back to real value and worth cannot come from political and social action. It must come from Jesus Christ. As we said earlier, He is THE image of the invisible God. He is God’s image. Only He can restore us to our true image-bearing state. He stepped into this world and received God’s wrath for our rebellion so He could restore God’s image in us. Now those that are in Him are being daily conformed in His image (Romans 8:29).
Are you tired of the anthill? Turn to Jesus and find your worth and value in Him. Return to worshipping your Creator and living in relationship with Him. You will find God has enough value to give to every single person. All 7.5 billion of us.