In the ancient near east, reigning kings were thought to rule on behalf of a particular god. That human king was thought to reflect the image of a nation’s god. It’s how they knew what a god was like.
The first chapter of Genesis announces that every human being has been created in the image of God. This truth, called the imago dei, is entirely radical! For centuries, scholars have debated what it means. Some say that it’s our moral capacity. Others suggest that it is our ability to reason. Others point to our function as those who rule, with God, over the earth.
No one is saying that we physically look like the God of the Israelites. No one’s peeking in a mirror or thumbing through family albums saying that we’ve got our Father’s lips or eyes or nose. That would be crazy, right? We don’t even know what He looks like. Or do we? Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 confirms, “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” As we gaze upon Jesus, we see the One who is the spitting image of His Father.
That’s the face and body to which we turn to discover what it looks like that we bear the imago dei, or the image of God. It’s the way we learn what our own bodies were made for. Poring over the Gospel snapshots of Jesus, we discover that lips are for announcing good news. Eyes and ears are meant to build relationships with sinners and saints. Arms are made for feeding and healing. And in Jesus’ final wounds, we recognize that our lives and bodies, like His, are to be given in service to God’s work of redemption for the world He loves.