What does it mean to be made in God’s image? It’s a pleasant idea, but one that can be a little hard to truly comprehend. If, though, you lived in Biblical times, you were probably used to people claiming to be the “image of god”. Most everyone in those times lived under the rule of a king, and these kings proclaimed themselves to be god’s image on earth, having the authority to carry out the will of the gods. These kings would also create idols – statues of wood, stone, or precious metal that were also said to be the physical embodiment of gods on earth or, “images of god”. Israel, though, was the one nation that didn’t view their kings as gods. They also were not allowed to create idols or images of their God, because God had already made images of Himself. In the beginning of the Bible, we see God as the all-powerful creator and king of the earth. As the king and the creator, He has authority over creation. One of the first things He does, though, is to create mankind and give them all authority to rule over creation by making them in His image. At a time where the task of acting as the physical embodiment of God to subdue the earth and rule over creation belonged only to a few elite kings, God gave this task to all mankind. How, though, are we expected to rule the earth?
The image of God in the Bible that we are given shows that ruling over the earth means to cultivate it, harnessing its raw potential and moving creation forward. In this way, the task that God gave mankind to act in His image and rule over the earth becomes much like to day-to-day activities that mankind has been doing for thousands of years. Unfortunately, just as often as people are good rulers and stewards of the earth, we’re terrible ones who spread sin and suffering. Thankfully, the image of God definition extends further than the definition that we have made it. In sending Christ to the earth to live as a man, God shows us what it truly looks like to live a life in the image of God. Through Christ’s example, we see that this life is one of servitude and goodness to others no matter what they do to us. Jesus even confronts all of the evil and destruction that we have created as rulers of the earth by taking on the full force of it when He died on the cross. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus provided a both an answer to the question what is the image of God as well as a way by which all of mankind could start living anew, filled with the love and goodness of Christ and acting fully in God’s image. At the very end of the Bible, this is the picture that we see – a new earth where all of the saved rule over creation and push the world forward as images of God with Christ as their salvation and example.