Genesis 1:27
Human Dignity

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. "God created humans by modeling them after himself. By modeling God they were created. He created them man and woman," (verse twenty-seven). This is the message given to us for today. This message teaches us that we are God's creatures. Even more, it teaches us that we are creatures made in the image of God. It shows that there is some kind of relationship between being created in the image of God and being created man and woman. Today I would like for us to think about the meaning in this.

Created By God

2. First, the Bible teaches that we humans are God's creation. What might this mean for us?

3. In Genesis chapter one, it tells the story of the work of God in the creation of the universe. As we understand from a single reading, the creation of it all in nature is expressed through the simple repetition of "God said" and "so it was." But, when it came to the stage of creating humans, we meet up with an exception. There the story is told like this: "God spoke. 'Let us make man after ourselves and like us. Let him have control over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and every thing that creeps over the earth," (Genesis 1:26).

4. One God by himself saying "us" has a strange feel to it, but we might get to see this for a moment as an expression that puts into our mind an image of God surrounded by angels or as an expression of God's majesty. Whether or not we do, the main thing here is the phrase "make man." A decision based on God's own will is deliberately being expressed in this text. It is emphasizing that humanity, that is the basis of our existence, lies in an intentional decision of God. Simply put, it means that we exist because God wanted us to. Because God wills it we exist.

5. This phrase won't have a great deal of significance in it for us when looked at in a general sense. Many times in Japanese society we use the phrase "make a child, make a baby," and actually these days processing in artificial insemination is nothing new. Consequently, we end up looking at the basis for a child's life to lie in the intentional decision of the parents or in some other person.

6. What happens from that, what results take place? What happens from that is that humans judge and humans decide whether it is worth a human coming into existence or not. If "making" a person is based on human will, then it would also mean that it is humans who decide the worthiness of that person's existence. And then if some people actually think "My coming into being is worthless. I shouldn't exist," then there will be other people who think shouting out in their hearts, "People like him shouldn't even be!" If decisions like that were put into practice, murders would take place whether as suicides or homicides. That would be the result of making the basis for existence in human will and volition.

7. But, the biblical message stands completely against and on the opposite side to that view. It says that the basis of human existence lies in the intentional decision of God. The Bible states that you exist because God willed your existence. Therefore, whether in reference to ourselves or to anybody, we should never say, "You shouldn't be." People will get sick. People will get hurt. It could happen that everything that so far has been cool for us will become uncool. People who have been useful will become unuseful. Or instead they might become a burden to everyone around them. Yet, we should never say "You shouldn't be." Because no person built himself by himself and neither did any other person around him build him. We are God's creations. The reason we exist in life is that God willed us into existence.

Created And Modeled After God

8. Then second, the Bible states about us humans that we are "created and modeled after God." What does that mean for us?

9. Translated literally, this section comes out as "created in the image of God." What in the world does "the image of God" mean in the first place? "The image of God" is often expressed in Latin as "Imago Dei," and is a phrase upon which many debates have been made [since the phrase came out and] to this day. We won't dwell upon those debates here. Let's stop to think about just one thing for now.

10. Until two months ago the image of Saddam Hussein stood in Baghdad, Iraq. (The scene of Hussein's image that stood in Fardus Square being toppled and dragged around in the city was broadcast repeatedly on TV.) When that image was still standing, the people would never have pointed to it and called it just "a bronze statue." They would have called it "President Hussein." Of course, the bronze statue was not the same thing as the real Hussein. But, by its existence that statue used to express the actual Saddam Hussein and his control over all the land of Iraq.

11. We can also think of our being made [in the image of God] as images of God in the same way. On the one hand, just as the bronze statue is not the same as Hussein, humanity and God cannot be identically the same. There is an unlimited gap between them. Humans are created beings and are not identical with the creator. Humans do not become gods. But, on the other hand, humans are placed into the world to express with their existence in life God and his rule. You and I both have our being in this world as images which by nature express the divine one. God has so willed it.

12. This word for "image (tselem)" of God is a word that expresses sculptures and earthen images, and in the Bible it is also a word that frequently points to idols. Please recall that the Israelites were given the commandment of prohibition in idol worship. God forbade any expression of him with images constructed by human hands. God cannot be expressed through idols. But, on the other hand, the Bible states that living humans are the image of God and have been created as images of God.

13. This message reverberates with a special nuance as you think of the background of the time period for this passage of scripture. [Scholars] say the reason this creation narrative of the universe was written in poetic form was for use in worship by the people of the captivity who had been transferred to Babylon after they lost their kingdom in battle in 6 B.C.E. In those days then, the captives saw directly with their own eyes the huge temples of the Babylonian gods, the splendor of their religious rites, in which the images of the gods were being carried by people's hands. It should be of no surprise if the poor and miserable captives might have been captivated in heart by these images and gods of the conquering nation Babylon. But, this narrative directed a strong appeal to the [captives in Babylon] with, "You will not be captivated in hearted by the glory and power of the images. Instead, your very being, though having lost every single thing, and being poor, miserable, and in dire straights is indeed the very image of God. Created human beings are images of the creator of the universe who also controls Babylonia." "Created and modeled after God." - In a period when human dignity was being blown away by war, that was the basis for the people to still live with the dignity of being a human being. And, it is the same for us today as well.

He Created Them Man And Woman

14. Then last, I would like for us to consider what the text means by "He created them man and woman."

15. Differences between men and women, differences in gender are not something between humans alone. But, the text here is stating something that has not been stated during the creation of the other animals. The creation of humans is stated as a creation of humans in the plural along with it being stated as the creation of humanity in the singular. Humans in the plural, as you might expect, is not entirely unconnected to the couple. What is being assumed in the phrase "he created them man and woman" is the marriage relationship between the two and the home coming forth out of that. They were just two people living together. And they were not "created as two humans" but as it has in the text that "he created them man and woman," God created them as mutually different genders from the beginning. In that sense then you might say that "the man and the woman" created here in this text represent every conceivable [heterosexual] relationship, in which one person lives with a person of the opposite sex in this world. Heterosexuals live together in mutual love. God created humanity for that kind of existence.

16. So, [the Bible] continues speaking of the phrase "he created them man and woman" with the phrase "they were created and modeled after God." In saying that a human being is the image of God that shows forth God, this means that [we are to be] as humans who live with others and not as independent humans. A human is not "the image of God" just on account of a relationship with God. Originally by nature, as [a person] has a relationship with some other person, the person is "the image of God." The reason that is so is "that God is love," (First John 4:7). God created this world with his overflowing love. With his overflowing love God called this world into existence. Then humanity was created as the image that would express in this world the creation that came through God's love and the reign and the control that comes through God's love. Consequently, the true essence of humankind as created as the image of God lies within a loving relationship.

17. So if that's how man started out being "the image of God," by having a relationship with some other human, then human dignity also can make its first claim for itself as one has a relationship with some other person. When we abandon living with others, when we abandon the loving of others, humans lose their dignity as well.

18. Finally, I will read you a passage from the New Testament. "Therefore, cast off the way you used to live, the old man who was misled by sexual desires and who was heading for destruction, and be renewed from the bottom of your hearts, and put on the new man made and modeled after God, and practice the righteous and pure way of living based on the truth. Therefore, cast off deception and speak the truth with each of your neighbors. We are each a part of the body," (Ephesians 4:22-25). As long as we are humans, we can say that the image of God formally remains in us. However, the true nature of the image of God was lost due to sin. As a result of that, the scripture says here to "Put on the new man made and modeled after God." Christ came in order to restore the lost image of God. Christ would have us put on ourselves the new man created and modeled after God. Christ did not come to make us into special human beings. He came to make us the original human beings that God created.

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