The Image of God – imago Dei

Imago Dei

This discussion board posting will deal with the imago Dei as described by James R. Estep and Jonathan H. Kim in Christian Formation, Integrating Theology and Human Development.  This text was written to present the “interrelationship of theology and psychology” in the study of the spiritual formation or development of individuals, groups of individuals and society overall. (Estep and Kim, 2010, p3)

Imago Dei is the text’s very first topic.  Estep and Kim lay the foundation for their work by first establishing that man is human because he was made in God’s own image.  “Let us make Man in our image…”  (Estep and Kim 2010, p11)  Imago Dei is essentially the image of God.  It is the “devinitive mark of our Maker” on us all. (Estep and Kim, 2010, p11)   It is what makes us human!  We are human because the creator made us in his own image.  Other species of life on Earth are not human because they were made in the image of the creator.  Humanity is worth study because to study humans is to study God, the being in whose image they were made.  To understand one is to better understand the other.  This clearly lays a foundation of support for Bible study to better understand God as well as giving support to the idea of better understanding the social sciences that focus on the understanding of human behavior.

It has far reaching implications into almost all of our lives!  If we are indeed made in the image of God, how should we act?  What should we do with our lives?  How should we think about ourselves?  If you were the son or daughter of a well-known genius, you would think of yourself as smart.  If you were the child of a great athletic, you would likely think of yourself as having great physical potential.  But, the child of God?  Wow.

This impact of this theology on social ministry is far reaching. If we are made in the image of God, we should strive to be like him in all things.  Or, said another way, we should strive to be like Jesus, the physical example given to us by God to show how to live.  Jesus was the “complete revelation of the image of God.”  (Erickson, 1998, 534)  Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick and ministered to children.  His ministry was first to the masses before the privileged.  Jesus was also a respecter of all persons, regardless of age, sex, social standing or education.  He taught us that God’s work was to minister to the physical needs people as well as to the needs of their souls.  He spoke to it directly when he said “we must do the work of him who sent me.”  (Erickson 1998, 534)  Taking care of others is God’s work, shown in the life of Jesus.  Even on the cross, he was concerned about the welfare of others as he insured John took care of Mary and that the thief on the cross had an eternal home.  Being made in the image of God truly indicates that Christians should be involved in and working on social causes that improve the lives of others in not only a spiritual but physical way.

Just as Estep and Kim used imago Dei as the foundation of their text on Christian Formation I believe it is the foundation for our walk on this Earth.  While it impacts all of the questioned areas of social ministry, outreach, missions and Christian leadership, for me the most vivid implication is to social ministry.  I’ve dealt with that topic in depth to this point.   The study this week really brought home to me that we must treat others as Christ treated the Church not only because he commanded us and modeled us to do that but also because the others around us are all a small image of God.  How we treat them is how we treat the Father.

There are also implications to outreach, missions and Christian leadership.  This theology cries out for us to work harder at evangelism.  Since we are all in his image, we are all truly related!  We must share the goods news of life with a purpose on Earth and eternal life afterwards with our relatives!  Is that not what we would naturally do with good news!  If we won the lottery for millions, would we not instantly share it with our family, both close and extended?   I think we would.

The same logic applies to missions outside of our own communities.  God draws no distinction between and American and an African.  Why should we?  If we are all truly created to live in the image of God, should we not do our best to insure that good news is everywhere, to everyone equally?

The implications of the theology of imago Dei are many, much as the implications to social ministry.  Leading others is most often most effectively done by modeling the behavior or actions the leader thinks appropriate for the team or group of people being led.  If we are truly each the image of God, we must model or give example to that image to the best of our ability.  Do we look like the image of God every day, either to those we see casually or to those we are charged with leading at work or at church?  “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  (NASB, 2006, p1569)  “I’ve read the last page of the Bible.  It’s all going to turn out all right.”  (Myra and Shelly, 2005, p106)  Do we lead others with that attitude and perspective?  Do we show the image of God, the image of abundant life in our daily walk and daily leadership of others?  Do we look and act like Jesus would look and act if he were here?  Do our children see their parents living an abundant, joyful life?  Those are the questions that keep me awake at night!

Imago Dei is a deep and fundamental theology to our Christian walk and life.  I am truly grateful to have just the beginning of its understanding.  There is so much more to learn!

 

 

Estep, James R. and Jonathan H. Kim.  2010.  Christian Formation, Integrating Theology and Human Development.  B&H Publishing Group.

Erickson, Willard J. 1998.  Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Baker Publishing Group.

Myra, Harold and Marshall Shelly.  2005.  The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham.  Zondervan Publishing.

New American Standard Bible, The MacAuthur Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson Publishing.

 

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