When you look at life or almost anything through the filter of the image of God, you will understand people and life much better. That is a simple, yet profound way to see people and life.
The following does not pretend to be a scholarly treatise on the image of God. While that would be great, it does not fit my desire, credentials, or strengths. On the other hand, if the image of God is best described through maleness and femaleness, Separate & Belonging, or Powerful & Relational, it should not be that difficult to find in God’s Word.
Consider the following examples to see if they represent the image of God as proposed. Some examples provide both elements and others just one.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, because of its simple, basic insight into what makes life good. The verse tells you to be separate (do justly) and belonging (love mercy and walk humbly) and that is what is good. A reasonable speculation is that it is good because it reflects God. So, God asks you to be Separate/Powerful (just) and Belonging/Relational (merciful).
For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
This verse is spectacular in the way it presents both elements. Even better, this verse is in the context of God telling the nation of Israel that He is willing to forgive and restore them.
Look at the first three lines. Each one is about the power of God or how He is different (separate) from us. He is High and Lofty, inhibiting eternity, Holy, and dwelling in a high and holy place. If you understand some of the reality of that portion of the verse, it initiates a worshipful and humble spirit, because this represents His majesty!
Look at line 3. God first states that He “…dwells in a high and holy place…” then continues to state He dwells with people also. He could have just continued to state how powerful He is and how angry He is with sin (which He has done prior to this verse), but here He wants you to know He is willing to forgive sin.
Equally important is the fact that God states that He dwells in more than one place. He inhabits eternity, dwelling in the high and holy place, but He also dwells with people who have a contrite and humble spirit willing to see their sin and repent of it – Separate/Powerful, yet Belonging/Relational.
…but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—…
This verse is foundational to how relationships work best. When you do not seek and share the truth, your relationships suffer. If though, you only seek and share truth, the emphasis would be placed on being Separate and Powerful, because truth is always powerful. That is not what the verse states. You speak “…the truth in love…” which combines power with what is best for them. So, powerful truth is spoken with the thought of what is best for them – Separate & Powerful yet Belonging & Relational.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
In Isaiah 57:15 quoted earlier, God stated how He is Powerful and Relational. Here Paul tells you that God has given you a combination of power, love, and sound minds (self-control).
What a wonderful thought that as a believer, God is dedicated to you representing His image properly so, He gives you His Spirit to blossom the fruit of the Spirit in your life. God wants you to display His image in the form of power, love, and self-control instead of fear, so, again – Separate & Powerful, yet Belonging & Relational.
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
After God tells you about creating you in His image, He tells you what your purpose is. That purpose has both relational and powerful elements in it. Consider “Be fruitful and multiply”. That is obviously a relational element referring to the most intimate options for a man and woman’s relationship. And God uses “subdue” and “have dominion” which are power words – Separate & Powerful yet Belonging & Relational.
Genesis 2:16-17 and Genesis 3:8-9
This combination of verses provides an excellent picture of God’s image. These two elements are not used in isolation from each, but in combination or proportion as evidenced in Ephesians 4:15. While God related to Adam and Eve, He also provided one clear and powerful boundary to them.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
This “powerful” statement was a boundary, and if crossed, hurt the relationship. What a good way for you to see how the two interact and support each other. Just like Ephesians 4:15, the power of truth supports the relationship and vice-versa.
But Genesis 3:1-6 tells you Eve was deceived, and Adam ignored the command (it was given to Adam before Eve was created) and they sinned or crossed the boundary. Notice what God did shortly after they sinned.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
God did not bring His power or separateness first. He related – “Where are you?” He was asking them not about their location, but if they knew where their hearts or relationship with Him was now. Shortly after this in verses 15-19, God demonstrates His power by judging the serpent, Eve and Adam. Once again – Separate & Powerful yet Belonging & Relational.
John 1:1-2, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Here God refers to the Word (Christ) in two quite different ways. First, “…the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Second, “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
God provides you a clear picture of His image in the way that He provided a solution to your sin. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection saves you and restores you to the place of ruling that God stated was your purpose back in Genesis 1:28. Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is spoken of as Separate & Powerful, yet Belonging & Relational.
John 3:16-17, 36
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
These two verses (3:16-17) speak of love, life, and salvation – all very relational items. But now consider the very last verse in the same chapter.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
There are relational items, but some powerful elements are also added. “He who believes…” can have an everlasting relationship with the Son who provided the solution to your sin. That is a repeat of earlier statements in the chapter. But notice the power addition – he who does not believe will suffer “…the wrath of God…” Again, you see – Separate & Powerful, yet Belonging & Relational.
You can see how easy it is to show both the powerful and the relational elements in God’s Word. While you may not be totally convinced, hopefully it has generated some interest for you to study the idea further.