“When I work to become human, is it not
God in me that is striving to become human”
Elizabeth Boyden Howes
Genesis 1:27 “God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.” (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide]
[Image: “Creative Commons Joseph Campbell All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you” by BK, used under CC BY 2.0]
Created in the image of God… how easily we take that statement for granted! But what does it really mean? As many times as I have used that phrase in preaching and teaching, I have to admit readily that I don’t know what it means. I like the sound of it; it seems an antidote to what we see from politicians and what we hear on the news. The difficulty is that if I am created in the image of God, so too are the racists, misogynists, homophobes and the murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and so many more. What kind of God transmitted this divine image to humankind?
Perhaps the difficulty is a directional one. When we hear imago dei (“created in God’s own image”) we think from-the-outside-in — that is, the imago dei has been planted in us from an external source (God as a theistic reality, a Supreme Being). What if we were to reverse the directionality — from-the-inside-out? The imago dei is an inner dynamic — a longing, an internal zeal for becoming more human. For the Christian, this is a yearning to follow in the Way lived and taught by Yeshua; for the non-Christian, a propensity for a more humane life.
When I strive to become a better human being, I am cooperating with a divine desire, an insistence, a call. When my life is more reflective of peace, wholeness, and justice, then it can be said that God is more alive in the world. Carl G. Jung put it this way:
“Christianity holds at its core a symbol which has for its content the individual way of life of a man, the Son of God, and it even regards this individuation process as the incarnation and revelation of God himself.”
Imago dei — that is who I am! I am God’s yearning for a world that is characterized by higher values — the Commonwealth of Peace and Justice (“Kingdom of God”). As I continue to grow toward maturity and wholeness, so does that divine dynamic within me and, hopefully, so do others around me.