As God’s image bearers we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth. We are created equally in His image. We are also fallen equally (Romans 3:23). Genesis 1:26 explains that God created man in His image. Of all of God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image, we have dominion over the rest (Genesis 1:28). It is a profound mystery (God is spirit so we do not bear His physical image, John 4:24) and yet a great privilege. Understanding our equality as image bearers changes everything we think about as it relates to our human relationships.
As image bearers we should view others as God views them. One way the Lord identifies us, and I’d argue the most important, is that we are either in Christ or we are not. C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” (The Weight of Glory, page 45).
We are not merely individuals walking out our faith alone. We are a part of humanity, each one of us heading towards Heaven or Hell. We want to be mindful as we interact with others, that though the here and now may feel and seem incredibly permanent, it is not. This doesn’t mean that we view people as projects. That isn’t love. But out of love we remember that for those of us in Christ we are witnesses. We want to share the gospel and be a light in a darkened world. It’s the greatest news we’ve ever heard. We don’t want to keep it to ourselves.
And if we are in Christ we should view each other as brothers and sisters. We are adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 5:1). We are His children and thus brothers and sisters in Christ. We are members of a glorious, mysterious family. Every person regardless of economic status, cultural background, gender or ethnicity, is equal in the sight of God and are members of the same household of God (Ephesians 2:19). There is no distinction. Understanding our adoption into God’s family changes everything about how we relate to one another.
Paul, in Romans 15:7, says that we are to accept one another. Christ died for our brother and sisters. If He would not condemn—neither should we. That does not mean that we turn a blind eye towards sin. God said faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6). Jesus, Himself, had to die for our sin. Rather, it’s an attitude of grace. We look at our brother and accept him and view him as covered in Christ’s righteousness. In essence we are to personify Ephesians 4:32 by being kind, tender-hearted, forgiving and Ephesians 5:19 through encouraging. We encourage one another so that no one is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). It is a means of protection.
How we view and relate to other image bearers ultimately boils down to love. Every aspect of our human relationships is a reflection of our love for them. When asked by a scribe what is the most important commandment of God, Jesus answers to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love others as yourself (Mark 12: 29-32). All things flow from these commands. We have the potential to view others from a heart of love or not. As we interact with others, how we treat them is either from love or it is not.
So as we reflect on our human relationships as image bearers, it’s good to stop and ask do we love others as we love ourselves. The answer will surely be no, not perfectly, not at all times. We fail at loving others and as a result our relationships suffer. The solution for our lack of love in relating to others, and the only way we could ever view others as equal to ourselves, is through the gospel.
Jesus loved perfectly and bore our imperfect views of others and unloving attitudes on the cross. We are forgiven. The blood of Jesus washes our sins away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). And it’s because of the gospel and God’s grace that we can view others equally as God’s image bearers.