For our prayers this month, we are reflecting on the creation narrative in the first chapter of Genesis.
On the sixth day, having created animals of all sorts, God went on to create human beings:
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle,
and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the
female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and
subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over
every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was
evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
[Genesis 1: 26–28, 31, New Revised Standard Version]
What does it mean to be ‘made in the image of God’? The Bible tells us that God is unseen*, so clearly
there’s more to it than the purely visual (physical features, gender traits, levels of ability, etc). The word
‘image’ comes from the same root as the word ‘imitate’, so perhaps being ‘made in the image of God’ is
primarily about imitating the intention of God.
Firstly, God intended human beings to take responsibility – for the world and for one another. The word
‘dominion’, in the passage above, comes from the Latin ‘dominus / domina’, meaning in essence the
head of a household, with responsibility for the smooth running of the household and the welfare of
everyone within it. For us, then, as people made in the image of God, the world is our ‘household’, and
it’s our responsibility to ensure that all are fed, clothed and sheltered, that talents are nurtured, ambitions
encouraged, and contributions valued, that resources are cultivated and distributed fairly, and that the
environment, ecosystems, flora and fauna are protected and tended.
Second, God intended human beings to live in relationship – with God, and with one another. Genesis 3:
8–9 says that after sin had entered the world, God is walking in the garden looking for the humans he
had made, calling out ‘Where are you?’ This suggests to me that God’s intention is to have a close
walking-and-talking-together relationship with each one of us, and that God misses us when we hide or
turn away. And God also intends for us to live in relationship with one another, in our ‘household’, taking
responsibility for each other’s well-being, because we are all created by the same God, interconnected
And third, God intended human beings to take risks. Perhaps the biggest risk God took was creating
human beings in the first place – had God never heard the phrase, ‘It’ll all end in tears’?! Well, I suspect
God knew – and created humans anyway. And when everything went wrong, God took another risk,
sending Jesus to show another way, a way of love, compassion, and forgiveness – only to be put to
death on a cross. So, if we are made in the image of God, then we too should take risks as we work for
peace and justice, as we care for one another, as we build relationships, as we follow the way of Christ.
Think about your own ‘household’ (e.g. community, workplace, church, the wider world):
~ is there someone who you might particularly encourage in some way this week?
~ is there someone who you might ‘walk and talk’ with this week?
~ is there someone who needs you to take a risk for them this week?
You made human beings in your image,
And you declared that it was ‘very good’;
But we have marred your image in us.
You gave us responsibility for the world and for one another;
Forgive us when we abuse others and exploit the earth’s resources.
May we bring healing and peace to the world you created.
You made us to live in relationship with you and with one another;
Forgive us when we turn away from you and from those in need.
May we always seek you and live in love with all people.
You take risks for your creation;
Forgive us when we take the safe and easy way through life.
May we never be afraid to speak truth and challenge injustice.
We pray in the name of Jesus.
* e.g. Exodus 33: 20; John 1: 18; 1 Timothy 1: 16; Colossians 1: 15
Image: photo – James Simms, Uganda, 2010