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 creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)
There are four ideas that we want to highlight from this passage. First, when God says “Let us” it is a relationship statement. Second, it reflects the power of will. Third, it reflects a capacity to choose. Fourth, it indicates an ability to create. When God says the he made humans in his image, we believe that we must have at least those four qualities.
Unfortunately, we have used those four qualities for the wrong purposes and have only increased the pain of our lives. We desire relationship but look for it in all the wrong places. We have a will but use it to choose to do wrong. We can create, but our creativity is given over to the pursuit of evil schemes against others. As a result, we live in a world of war and pain.
God is seeking to restore the perfection of his image in our lives and in his world. We started in his likeness and God intends that as our final goal. Paul expresses this in both his letters to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians he said, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” In 2 Corinthians he wrote “we… are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” He expressed it in Romans 8:29 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
This “likeness of his Son” is not what the Mormons teach, that we can be of the same substance as Christ. We are not and cannot. Likeness and sameness are quite different and are actually the opposite. The very word likeness suggests that while there are similarities that constitute a likeness, there remains a difference. It is an image, not a similar substance.
I would like to return to the four ideas of Genesis 1 and consider them.
Relationship is a reflection of God. One of the first things we learn about God is that a harmonious relationship exists within the trinity. Genesis “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness….’" This is a collective statement of the trinity.
We honor marriage because it also reflects God. The trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have distinctions between them yet they are one. So in marriage, we have obvious distinctions yet we are one. Marriage between a man and a woman reflects that unity in spite of diversity. The sexual relationship is a physical picture of the spiritual unity of husband and wife.
Obviously, homosexual relationship can never reflect the image of God because it is not unity with diversity. There is no difference between the two such as there is between a man and a woman. Therefore it cannot be what God intended. It reflects the brokenness of humans.
In marriage we are taught to submit to one another because there is no competition between the members of the trinity. When one person in the marriage begins to denigrate the other person, it is not a reflection of God’s intention. It is brokenness. Unity does require submission. Several times a day you must submit to the other person. This is not a demand, it is the divine. It is the trinity principle expressed in marriage.
The natural product of marriage are children. Our children do not always fully reflect the likeness of their parents. Sometimes they are born with deformity or without full mental capacity. Diminished though they may be, they are still our children and still reflect the image of us. Even when disease takes them down to shadows, they belong to us. I think of Chris and Karen King as they care for their son Andrew. On this earth, the promise of life goes unfulfilled yet they care for him and nourish him because he is their child.
Sometimes our children disappoint us with their conduct. They are still our children. We cannot disown them because they are ours. We cannot stop wanting them to be what they should be, but they still reflect our image to some degree.
We have the desire to create children because God has put it into our hearts. We have to experience pretty severe trauma to still this divine impulse.
Soon we will be gathering for Thanksgiving. Do we really drive hours just to eat a
turkey? It is really not about eating
This is also one of the driving forces behind Sunday School and the children’s program. Certainly we understand God’s commands to pass the faith to the next generation. Even without that, we would have Sunday School because our children are us. They come home with these little scribbles of color on paper and we celebrate like it was the Mona Lisa. It is not the beauty of their scribble that we celebrate but the tiny step of progress. Even more than that, it is the sheer joy of life. It is relationship. It is the image of God being reflected in what touches our hearts.
Friendship is similarly an expression of that divine image. Friendship feels good to us because it is good. It has a divine quality to it. Friendship is not an adequate expression of the relationship within the trinity, but it is related to it.
We love our neighbor because our neighbor reflects the image of God. God gave this command using a negative in Genesis 9:6 when he forbade murder. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”
Further, we have Christ’s example of love for us. This is what Paul urged upon us in Ephesians 5:1-2 “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If we love, we are “imitating” God who loves us.
Because of our creator, we have the capacity to will and to choose to act upon that will. Out of this comes our capacity to create.
We work to create order out of chaos because God made us like that. The sinner strikes against order by stealing, deceiving, and ripping people off. They enjoy the fruit of the order that others have created but they act against it. In doing so they enjoy the blessings of God without contributing to it. They should enjoy it while they can because it is all they will enjoy. They are sealing their eternal fate and destining their souls to eternal misery by increasing chaos instead of order and beauty.
We are concerned for the beauty of the earth because it reflects the beauty and order of its creator. We plant our gardens in rows, and mow our lawns because we are made in God’s image. Our messy garages frustrate us for the same reason.
We have a desire to rescue. When we see a wounded animal, we naturally want to do something. When we see a person in need, it touches our heart. God is like that. He has a desire to rescue his creation. He wants to redeem us from the inevitable destruction. We act the way we do because the image of God is being reflected.
We don’t just accept things the way they are because God does not. If your life is not in order, God is the one who calls you to something different. If your family is broken and a mess, it is not just you that wants it to be different, it is God. If the schools are not what they should be, God calls us create something better. If the opportunity is not there for our children to flourish, it is God’s idea to create something that works.
God’s will becomes very easy to understand when the proper foundation is laid. First, it is to open our heart to his Spirit so he can begin the re-creation process. He wants us bring us fully into the likeness of Jesus. Second, he would like us to choose to follow his Spirit. He will not make us do this but he calls us to it. There should be no disunity between his Spirit and our spirit.
 Eph “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”