Are human beings made in the image of God or is God made in the image of human beings? I think there’s a bit of both. Since God cannot be seen, touched, heard, tasted, or smelt, we can only relate to the divine mystery through images that we hold in our minds, and those images are necessarily composed out of our human experience. Hence we use time-honoured images like Creator, Father, Sovereign, national God of Israel, or we conjure up images like that of an old man in the sky. We have learnt from the Bible not to worship physical images of God, but we do develop our own mental pictures of God whether they are personal or impersonal. However we can only do this because we are made in the image of God, that is, we reflect something of God in our makeup; we have stamped upon us something of the divine nature, creativity and imagination for example. We know that no one owns God, rather we belong to God. As the Roman Emperor’s image was stamped upon coins circulating in Israel during the time of Jesus, so the image of God is stamped upon human beings indicating that they belong to God. So, according to Matthew 22:15-22, when tested with a question about paying the hated Roman tax Jesus took the opportunity to emphasize that all people belong to God for his likeness has been stamped upon them all. Give to God then the things that belong to God. That does not mean that we give some time to God while we invest most of our time elsewhere: it means that in all of our time we are meant to reflect the nature of God. If God was reflected in Jesus more clearly than anywhere else as the Christian message generally emphasizes, then we see that at its heart the nature of God is best represented by the term love – including respect, grace, compassion, sacrifice, commitment, mercy and concern for the other. Then we reflect God when we love God with all our being and love other people in the way that healthy-minded people love themselves.
- What do you think God is like?
- What other ideas do people have of God?
- What is it about people that makes us say that they bear God’s image?
- Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. What then are we to give Caesar and what are we to give God?