One of the distortions in many people’s understanding of themselves and others is the estimation of personal value and significance upon the wrong basis. This has led to errors in:
- abortion on demand
- "euthanasia" and "mercy killing"
- denigration of capital punishment upon inadequate basis
Personal self awareness, self perceptions, self estimation and personal relationships, by the confusion of personal value and significance with:
- personal achievements and recognition
- personal appearance
- personal affluence and prosperity
- physical health and vitality.
The Biblical view is, though, that each human being already has value and significance in himself or herself in being created in the image of God. Therefore each person can find an objective and unchanging understanding of his or her eternal value and significance in this fact.
1. All mankind — each and every person — arose by the creation of God.
This means that all human beings have the same value and significance no matter their race, gender or physical or mental capacity. There is only one human race, and each human being is a valuable member.
The Biblical meaning of mankind as the creation in the image of God begins to unfold in the account of the creation of man and woman in the book of Genesis:
"Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatues that move along the ground. ‘ 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).
"When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man’" (Genesis 5:1-2).
This the Bible teaches that mankind began as the special creation of God himself. The Bible is clear that the first human couple were created through special miracles of God himself (Genesis 2:7, 22).
- humanism: the philosophy of human self sufficiency. God made man, and mankind remains dependent upon the providential order of the world designed and sustained by God.
- evolution: insofar as it teaches man arose by development from the animal creation. Man is a part of creation, with extensive similarities of physiological design and biochemical process to the animal creation. Nevertheless, the scientific evidence for human evolution is extremely fragmentary so as to be insufficient to overthrow the Biblical teaching. In fact, most of the reconstructions of prehistoric human skeletons rely upon premises which are known to be fallacious in dealing with modern human skeletons (e.g., it is impossible to infer intelligence and brain function from the capacity and shape of a human cranium). It is entirely possible, in view of all of the evidence and statements of some of the evolutionary scientists themselves, that the more apelike members of the proposed, hypothetical series of human evolution were simply an extinct breed of ape. Certainly the evidence is that the specimens which are undoubtedly human were different from human beings of the present simply in having a less developed technology.
Man is different from the animals:
- In his being made in the image of God and capacity for personal relationship with God
- In his authority over the earthly and animal creation:
" . . . what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the sea"
- In his awareness of eternity and desire for eternal life: "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 4:11).
Each of these intertwined philosophies of humanism and human evolutionism actually and ultimately degrades those people who, consciously or unconsciously, ascribes to them:
- through subversion of the God given moral sense of people
- through devaluation of human life
- through undue elevation of animals and the rest of the brute creation.
2. God providentially superintends the existence of each human being.
Each human being since the beginning has come into existence by the providential design of God through the process of human reproduction and thus ultimately through the sovereign design and superintendence of God. In some cases God has supernaturally aided this process (as in the case of Abraham and Sarah conceiving Isaac) and in one absolutely unique case he bypassed the normal process entirely, in the virgin birth of Christ. His intention was that every child be born of a marital union, but one of the consequences of sex outside of marriage is the children conceived of this union. The former case may be said to be in accord with his design, the latter allowed by his sovereign permission. But in both cases the child is equally the creation of God and made in his image.
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I m fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written for me in your book
before one of them came to be"
No matter what the circumstances of your conception and birth, therefore praise God for your life. Praise him also for the way in which he made you, for everything about yourself that you find likeable and the things about yourself that you find annoying or difficult to bear.
Whatever you find difficult to accept about your physical being — a lack of physical beauty, a disability, etc. — happened by the sovereign permission of God: "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?"(Exodus 4:11). All these things are not a mark of God’s punishment or displeasure, however difficult they may be to bear. Consider all these things in the light of the statement of Jesus about the blindness of the blind man: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3). Offer your condition back to God, as part of making your body a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), and seek that his will and his glory may be displayed through your physical body.
Though it is not truly a physical defect, many have had difficulty in dealing with a sense of a lack of physical beauty. Such areas as diet, exercise, cleanliness, courtesy and tact, and an inner joy and tranquillity have much more to do with the qualities of physical attraction than the artificial enhancements of makeup, etc. These aspects need attention first in dealing with this self estimation. In addition, it needs to be noted that the attraction of Jesus himself was by no means physically based:
"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him"
A reading of the gospels would seem to indicate that Jesus was so average looking that it was impossible to pick him out of a crowd!
No matter what physical potential one has been given, be it great or small, any man or woman who is a believer in Christ can have the true attraction of Christlikeness. A concentration on these qualities is more advisable for a courtship and marriage both godly and satisfying. Then, too, a deep insecurity about one’s appearance can lead to an envious, resentful, vindictive and manipulative character which may be a more effective sabotage of personal relationships than any lack in the area of personal appearance.
3. God made man like him in some way of resemblance so as to be called in his image and likeness.
What does ‘the image of God’ mean? Generally the image of God is divided into personality (the quality of personhood) and character (moral capability).
- Personality remains in the power of rational thought, communication and action.
- Sin has corrupted the moral character of man. Nevertheless people retain a sense of moral direction, judgment and responsibility (Romans 2:14-15), which shows an intuitive understanding of the moral law of God. This general understanding of morality often reflects the Ten Commandments and has been the basis of human civil law where in ages and cultures without the Bible.
Family Order and the Image of God
Both men and women share in the image of God though the order of creation (I Corinthians 11:7-9 and I Timothy 2:13) has significance for family order.
Civil Justice and the Image of God
1. "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting . . . And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man" (Genesis 9:5-6).
The image of God in man makes the premeditated and hostile killing of man by man murder that amounts to a crime against God himself. This is the Biblical justification for capital punishment in the case of murder.
- What does this then say about the act and consequences of abortion of the unborn? With all the mention of the consequences to the child and the mother, what does it amount to in regard to God himself?
- Thus being prolife in the sense of being against abortion does not have thus to entail being against capital punishment. Abortion may thus be considered the murder of the innocent, while capital punishment would be the punishment of the guilty.
Verbal abuse and the image of God
"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness" (James 3:9).
This shows how slander, demeaning and derisive talk about others, verbal abuse etc. can amount to a denigration leveled against God himself, and gives the Biblical basis for restraint of such talk. This should give us all a new incentive to consider how we speak of others in the hearing of God himself.
All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers