“7 Truths: Humanity’s Value and Dignity”
Genesis 1:26-31; Romans 5:12-21
Bill Cosby is a funny man. No doubt about it. Certainly through the 80s his sitcom entertained millions about the life of a professional family and their children. He once shared in a comedy routine some words from his father. When Cosby was about 7 years old, his father said to him, “You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out. And it don’t make no difference to me, I’ll make another one look just like you.”
Of course we cannot make children to look just like us. We know a lot of it depends on genetics and there may be certain characteristics they carry that look like us. And we also know that our children don’t always look alike either. Some children do carry a lot of similarities, but we also know they can look very different.
After a few week’s hiatus we are getting back to the series I started back in September. The 7 Truths that Changed the World, based on the book by Kenneth Richard Samples. This week we look at the human being.
We look at how we are created and how we live. We look at our values and what makes us up as part of God’s creation.
Today we will look at the 6th dangerous Christian claim that we are created in the image of God.
This morning we read the verse which we use to first base our belief on. “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.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
Out of all the creatures God has made in the world, it was only the humans which He created in His image. On a side note, you’ll notice in that first few words God said, “Let us make man in our image…” which is to indicate it’s not just God, but Jesus is present at creation from the very beginning, and part of the plan God put in place before the start of time.
The words used are “image” and “likeness” which means we aren’t necessarily identical, but similar to God.
Which, when you think about it, makes some sense. Given the great diversity in the human body across the world, one could only conclude that we don’t look exactly like God, but we share in God’s attributes in some way.
So if we look at the natural image of who we are, Kenneth Samples reduces our attributes into three categories:
1. Our resemblance. We possess a number of attributes which resemble God. One of which is that we are a spiritual being. We have this longing for a greater connection and ability to relate with God. We pray, we worship, we seek repentance, and so on, all of which indicate our tremendous desire for a relationship with our creator. This attribute is not visible in any other species on earth. We have this great need for companionship.
We are also rational. We have the ability to grasp thought, knowledge and truth, and we are able to apply it uniquely in our own context. This of course also extends to our ability to understand God and His truth.
We are also volitional, which is to say we are able to make our own choices. But we are also aware of the moral issues around the choices we make and our responsibility with making such decisions. These are the ways in which we resemble God.
2. Our relationships. As a race of people we put great value in relationships. Family, friends, loved ones, spouses, they are hold a particular importance in our lives, and we too are unique in this as well. Some may say it is a reflection of community experienced in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3. Our representation. God gave Adam and Eve the instructions to care for creation, He gave them roles of leadership and power over the earth. In our actions we reflect this role in the world. We use resources, we manage it, we represent God on the earth.
Done rightly and properly all three of these categories express how we live out the nature of God as expressed in who we are as being created in the image or the likeness of God.
This is all well and good, and I could go on with various academic explanation about all of this, but my job as preacher here this morning is to help you get some meaning out of it.
We live in a world that loves to claim, “God is dead!”
People look at the history of religions and love to point out all the hatred and violence people have done over the millennia and they say, “Look at what your god has done!”
There is some truth to what they say. I will agree with them that people have done terrible things in the name of God. Hitler believed he was acting in the name of God. But these are just the acts of a few, delusional, misguided people.
We remember sin came into the world very quickly. Adam and Eve disobeyed God in a time when they only had one simple rule. Don’t eat from the tree. Yet they were tempted and they succumbed. Since then more rules have been added, primarily the Ten Commandments. And we continue to break them as well.
Yet, even in our sin we still carry the qualities of God as we still are created in His likeness. We still care for one another, we still care for creation, we still manage its resources (although how well we do this may come into question).
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, shared with us the following wisdom this morning in response to the sin of Adam and Eve,
“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ… Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:15-17, 20-21)
We, like Adam and Eve, have been created for a purpose. We have been created in the likeness of God to care for the world and each other. Like Adam and Eve, we have fallen short of this calling. We too sin and turn our backs on God and what He has planned for us.
But all is not lost.
We have been given another gift, sort of a second chance, if you will. Jesus Christ has come to show us more. So while our bodies are mortal: we are born, we live and we die. We have been shown that our spirits are immortal. We have been shown through Jesus Christ there is an abundance of grace which is freely given to us, no matter our sins.
We are shown our lives can have great value. We are shown our lives are capable of dignity when we seek out God’s love shown through Jesus Christ.
We are shown the potential of how we may live in God’s likeness when we submit ourselves to this grace and mercy and seek to resist the temptation of sin in our lives.
No one said it would be easy. When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, God warned them it would be hard. But God also provided for them. Just as God continues to provide for us today.
Imagine if we really did turn our back on God. All of our western society has been built in Christian principles. Our laws and morals all built on Christian values. If it were not so, the world would be a much more chaotic and violent place.
Yet God is alive. God’s rule and reign are sovereign over all things. God’s love and mercy are at the forefront of our society, or at least it should be.
It’s how we have been created.