Skipping it?

Regular readers, or friends in real life, will know that a particular theological passion of mine is the wonderful truth that every human being is made in the Image of God.

This glorious doctrine is coming in to more and more focus, with books and talks and conferences abounding.

It is rooted, of course, in God’s marvellous declaration in Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

We know this story.

You’ve probably read this a thousand times.

The world’s briefest biblical theology of being human would then, perhaps, jump ahead to Jesus. In Colossians 1:15, Paul writes of Jesus that “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” This is good, and beautiful, and true. Different English translations put the emphasis on different parts, but there is a wonderful emphasis on Jesus being the true image of God, the true human who invites us to become more like him.

I’ve written before that it is important to note that the Image of God isn’t lost at the fall – but scarred, broken.

I wonder if, perhaps, we too easily skip from Genesis 1 to Colossians 1 when thinking of what it means to be made in the Image of God.

This little phrase is not particularly explained by Scripture – we have to do the work in order to realise just how radical it is.

But Genesis has more to teach us. In Genesis 5, we read that Adam’s children are in his image, his likeness – something is transmitted from the first humans to the rest of us. Fair enough, you might say, so why is this blog post titled ‘skipping it’?

I think we often talk about being made in the Image of God without talking about what it actually means, and why that matters.

Black lives matter.

Recently, the world watched in shock as George Floyd was murdered. An image-bearer, a man made in the image of a God of love and justice, was unjustly suffocated.

In Genesis 9:6, we read this:

Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
    has God made mankind

I don’t want to get into questions of retribution and punishment in this short blog post, but do you see why murder is so bad? Do you see why it matters that we resist violence? The reason for the biblical view of humanity as being so foundational to justice is that humans matter because they are made in the image of God. George Floyd bore the image of God. His blood was shed – as he croaked ‘I can’t breathe’.

As a person of privilege on the other side of the pond, it is easy for me to skip over Genesis 9:6. Easy for me, having never been threatened or had real violence done to me, to focus only on the simple goodness of being made in the Image of God. But that being made in God’s Image matters. It counts for something. And we can’t just skip over it.

I’ve found Ben Lindsay’s book We Need to Talk About Race helpful in thinking through what to do in the light of George Floyd’s murder, with the power I’ve been given. You can read a chapter of it free here.

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