“In the Image of God He Created Him; Male and Female He Created Them”
Male and Female He Created Them”
Many Christians are accustomed to thinking about the Bible in terms of old and new covenants (or testaments). There are good reasons for that: Knowing in which covenant a command, promise, gift or fulfillment resides helps us understand its meaning and application for us today.
However, there is a third category in theology which is less talked about: this category is called God’s order of creation. There are gifts from God and a moral order, which do not originate in either the old or new covenants, but which God has designed into the fabric of creation. These gifts include, for example, the Sabbath (Gen. 2:3-4), marriage (Gen. 2:24), and the sanctity of life (Gen 4:6-11, 9:6).
Another example is the gift of God’s image, which He endowed mankind with in creation:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
It is important that we recognize the placement of this gift – the image of God, in the order of creation, so that we understand that the image of God was not given only to man and not woman, nor only to the Jews and not the Gentiles, nor to any particular race of mankind; but it was given to all mankind through the father and mother of us all. Moreover, this endowment was solely God’s creative activity, not man’s. We did not evolve into the image of God, nor did we reason our way into God’s image by our intellect or piety; it was entirely God’s gracious activity, as it is written: “So God created man in his own image.” Finally, the endowment of God’s image was given to all mankind in equal measure.
The image of God is the highest honor and greatest gift given to mankind in creation. No other creature is endowed with the image of God, and it is in connection with this endowment that “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…’ ” (Gen. 1:28).
However, it is also true that the image of God in mankind has been utterly lost or severely defaced (depending on one’s tradition). We could probably all agree that what has been lost in natural man is his love for and trust in God and the will to live in harmony with God’s will.
This loss of God’s image, which resulted from the sin of Adam, is universal. No race, color or ethnic group is exempt from this loss. This loss of God’s image has been passed down to all mankind in equal devastating measure.
But there is another sense in which I would submit that man has not lost the image of God: this would be in the memory of God. He remembers His image, unrecognizable to natural man, in mankind, which God loves. Here is God’s command to Noah after the flood:
Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image. (Gen. 9:6)
God sees something precious in human life and commands mankind to uphold the sanctity of all human life. This command reflects God’s moral order for humanity. It does not distinguish between male or female, race, color, ethnicity, or any other category that we have devised to divide human life. On the issue of the sanctity of life, God does not recognize our divisions.
But God did not stop with His command to Noah. Out of sheer mercy and grace, God took the incomprehensible action of entering into our humanity to redeem us from our fall into sin and loss of His image, to bring us back to Him, and to renew in us the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-27)
For in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:19-20)
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Cor. 15:49)
The purpose of this article is to offer our neighbors, close and far, both friends and strangers, a few words of encouragement regarding your place in Christ’s Church at a time when divisive elements in our country seek to divide us and sow fear and hatred among us based on our sex, race, color, ethnicity, nationality or country of origin. I want all of you to know in no uncertain terms that misogyny, racism, xenophobia and similar ideologies of division and hatred, in any form, for any purpose, from any source, are not of God; they are values and ideologies wholly incompatible with Christianity.
Jesus shed His blood for the entire human race. The Christian Church is commanded to make disciples of all nations. Christians are commanded to love their neighbors as themselves. The Gospel affirms the oneness of all believers in Jesus Christ:
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:27-28)
Therefore, whether you are baptized or not, or even a Christian, Christ’s Church welcomes you, regardless of your gender, race, color, ethnicity, nationality or country of origin. As it is written:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-24)
All of you matter to God, and if you matter to Him, then you matter to His Church. Despite what you might hear in the media or experience personally to the contrary, please know that there remain in America a vast number of churches which continue to welcome and value all comers. Do not give up on Jesus or seeking after God; He has not given up on you.
And let everyone who calls himself or herself Christian also remember of the image of God in all mankind and especially in the poor and defenseless among us. At a minimum let us remember them favorably in our prayers. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wisely wrote:
I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me…. There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession as far as our side is concerned. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day. (Life Together, p. 86)
Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us. Amen.