The LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
Many today view humans as little more than clever animals. Yet the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis indicates that we are much more. It is true that humans have something in common with animals. Like them we were created by God and are dependent upon Him for life and breath. However, humanity differs from the rest of earth’s creatures in one important respect. We have been created “in the image of God” (vv. 26–27).
Humans were created in God’s image so that they can “rule” over creation (v. 26). This language does more than put us at the top of the food chain. It places the responsibility of stewardship upon our shoulders. Because we have been created in God’s image and likeness, we are charged with the duty of acting as His agents in this world. This responsibility gives humanity a dignity unmatched by the animals. Our role as caretakers of God’s creation means that we must have a regard for that which God has created (Prov. 12:10).
The divine image continues to be an element of human nature, even though it has been marred by sin. The recognition that we have been made in God’s likeness is fundamental to human ethics (Gen. 9:6). Our treatment of others is shaped by our view of them, especially to the degree that we are able to recognize the divine image in them (cf. 1 John 4:20). When the effects of sin blind us to the divine image in others, we behave inconsistently. With the same tongue we praise God and curse those who have been made in His image (James 3:9). As a result, it is necessary through faith in Christ to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10).
Apply the Word
A culture that sees humans as little more than intelligent animals will treat people like animals or worse. Do not let the world press you into its mold. Train your vision to see the image of the divine, even in those people you find difficult to like. Showing respect for others is one way to show reverence for God.