That’s what the creation story has God saying when God makes people. “Let us make humankind in our image….” A lot of ink has been spilled over what, exactly, that means. What are the characteristics of God that we have inherited in our creation?
It may be that the pronoun is a big clue – “our” image. If this “our” suggests a connection with the idea of God as Trinity, then what we share with God is that we are made for community. We flourish when we are in communion with our fellow creatures who are also made for community.
Richard Rohr said, “If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of but is the Ground of Being and is on our side.” He goes on to say that our image of God creates us. That is, the way we think of God, the way we perceive God to be, shapes how we live our lives, what we believe about ourselves and the way life is.
If we believe that God is to be feared, that God will punish us if we step out of line, that we have to walk the straight and narrow or God will throw us into Hell, we will live our lives with the same kind of attitude. We will live as if life is about judgment and punishment. We will see others as real or potential threats and enemies. We will see differences and see threats, not gifts to enrich us.
If we believe God is for us, that God’s stance towards us is fundamentally that we are loved and drawn into eternal communion, and that all of us make up a community of increasing complexity and harmony, we will view others, no matter how strange to us they may be, as gifts to challenge, enrich and teach us.
The way we think of God does indeed shape the way we think of others.
On this anniversary of the Charleston shooting, a few days after Orlando, we desperately need to see God in the face of Jesus, to understand God as love, and to turn toward our neighbors with welcome and blessing. A culture of fear and division leads people to strike out at those they view as threats. We are all prone to this temptation. The peace of our world and our communities depends on our being able to embrace a God of love and grace and community, and to be shaped by that image. For too long we have made distinctions or race and class, culture and sexual orientation, as if God did not make all of us for community. It is time to look God in the face by seeing in one another “our image.”