Love and the Imago Dei
At Church I saw a young father holding his baby, and in that moment something moved in me. Here’s my attempt at unpacking it
In that moment, looking at that ordinary sight of a man holding his child, I got a sense of how precious people are to God. Perhaps I glimpsed just a tiny fraction of His divine passion for His creation. In floods of tears I tried to cling on to that feeling, knowing that if I could go through life feeling that I’d never mistreat anyone every again. The feeling gradually slipped away but it left behind a thoughtfulness and a renewed resolve to honour others, whoever that may be.
People are precious. I’ve known it for years, I’ve even said it enough times, but how much have I truly internalised it? It’s part of my belief system - if people are made in the image of God (Imago Dei), it really does change everything about how we should treat them:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
- Genesis 1:27, English Standard Version (ESV)
Thus is the very essence of human dignity engraved into the very first chapter of the Bible.
Jesus Christ Himself commanded His followers “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” - as if to emphasise this, the Apostle John records this twice. I know Jesus is serious about this love; after all, I believe Him to be God in the flesh speaking to us. I know it’s not a sentimental “there, there” love - it costs EVERYTHING. It’s the love that kept Him on the cross, bleeding for His brothers and sisters. It’s the love of sacrifice, the love that speaks truth, the love that will confront people with their sin, the love that will encourage the downhearted, the love that burns with a fierce passion that I’ve perhaps glimpsed a tiny fragment of. The Apostle Paul described it like this:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
- 1 Corinthians 13:1, English Standard Version (ESV)
If I don’t love people, then I’m failing entirely at following Jesus. My words will ring hollow. I want to be obedient and love like this, but I look at myself and how I usually treat people and there’s a temptation to despair. Holding together this image of how precious people are and yet how broken and selfish I am, there’s a vast, vast disparity that breaks my heart.
I am not naturally good with people - I’m great with computers, and have the attendant difficulties relating to others common to many in my profession. It’s not about learning some program or some method, as if there were some formula to apply. People are not my projects, they are not things. People ought to be as precious to me as that baby in her father’s arms. Why? Because they are that precious - and then some - to their Creator, who is both judge and redeemer.
And so what can I do with this? Just throw my hands up and say “I can’t do this! How can I possibly love that much? How can I lay down my life for others? Even my motives in wanting to love are not 100% pure!” Well, I go to the only place I can go - in prayer to the Master Jesus, and ask for His help. He’s alive and stands ready to receive sinners.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ
- Ephesians 4:15, English Standard Version (ESV)
Glancing at that man and his daughter, something connected between my beliefs and emotions. Somewhat painful but I’m glad it did! I have such a long way to go. I’m a real fixer-upper!