"His Image" Means What?
There is a wildfire in the news this week, (Feb 5, 2019) because our President said in his State Of The Union address that "...All children -- born and unborn -- are made in the holy image of God..." You'd think this was the first time anybody suggested that based on some of the resulting news coverage. Fortunately, we all know that scripture dating back to about the beginning of time made that claim, as recorded in Genesis 1:27, "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them." It's a good thing the President didn't suggest they were created male and female too, as that would have been fuel to the fire.
But exactly what does it mean to be created in His image? First of all, there is no way in this short space to cover this topic, so consider this a partial answer. I believe that the "image of God" is not necessarily something we as humans "have", but something we "are". Some Hebrew scholars would suggest the best translation into English would be "God created man as His image". Obviously, this is a human interpretation and not infallible, but it would suggest that instead of being "similar" to how God is, we are rather a "copy" of our creator. We are like God, a representation of His being, understanding certainly that we are not God and don't possess His divine nature.
Now, why is that important, and as opposed to what? We, mankind, are distinctive in that we are not like any of the other creatures God created, which were not created in His image. Other animals are not similar, and certainly not copies of His nature. There is no other creation by God given this distinction and that is what separates us humans from all others. Take away the image of God, take away our humanity, now suddenly, we are like all the other creatures. This is what gives us value in God's eyes that other creatures don't have.
God made us inherently distinct, with an intellect, a conscious and reasoning ability. All creatures make decisions as witnessed by their behavior, but only humans can reason. Only humans understand there is a right and a wrong, a good and a bad. To other creatures, their actions and reactions are instinctive and natural. But God made us different, superior, (Gen 1:26) and the rest of His creation was created for us.
Being in His image also means God desires us to possess His morals, to think like He does (following His teachings) and to understand love and intimacy in ways the other animals can't. God has also chosen to place worth on us, the opportunity to co-exist with Him in eternity, and He gives us life eternal. When we die, we are not like Rover, dead all over. Our bodies return to the dust, but our spirit remains living, awaiting a day when Jesus will put an end to life on this earth, and a day when judgment will take place. No other living creatures have been blessed with eternal life, nor have any hope of resurrection from the dead. So we are important to God, our lives are important, we are valuable because God has created us in this special way. We talk about the sanctity of a human life, or in the plural, and that sanctity is inherent only to human beings that God forms in the womb and brings to life. Other animals don't have an inner-spirit that is immortal, nor can they host the Spirit of God as they dwell in a mortal body. All animals in God's creation are certainly His possession, but none in the same sense as humans who can relate to the will and intellect of their creator. Other animals can't violate a conscious they don't have, so they can't sin against God like we can and certainly do. Being different as we are, God has a type of love for us that the remainder of His creation doesn't experience, and wanting us to live with Him for eternity has necessitated His direct involvement in our lives, as demonstrated in His very own willingness to send Jesus to suffer and die so that we might be brought back into His good graces after our sin removed us.
Again, space prohibits a lengthy explanation but know this, and I'm sure you do, being created in God's image is special, and it's because of the value God places on us that we are different. I have "loved" my pets, and I like and enjoy animals, and I believe all of God's creation is important. But the other living, breathing creatures God created are not on the same level with God as we are. Unfortunately, some today are bringing the value of human life down to the animal level, and human life is not held in high esteem by some in our world due to culture, laws, religious beliefs, social desires and other various reasons (including excuses). These are man-made ideas and foreign to the value God has given to our lives.
God created us like Himself, and anyone that says life at any stage isn't real or doesn't have value is not the giver of that life, and wasn't in on the decision in Heaven that went like this, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:26)