We humans are not “little gods,” but Loren Seibold points out that we are His children, and even in our brokenness, we reflect His image.
A depression-era house on an abandoned Kentucky mountain farmstead.
We’d found our way there by accident (a wrong but serendipitous turn) and, needing to stretch our legs, stopped to explore. The door was off its hinges, window glass littered the floor, fallen plaster revealed rough lathing beneath, and spider webs spanned corners. Yet beneath the dirt were signs of a time when this had been a home. A place where people worked and played, laughed and cried and lived.
Beneath our feet the worn remnants of colorful linoleum, chosen by a wife to make her kitchen pretty. A chimney where decades back a family had gathered around a warm fire at Christmas. Scraps of once-charming wallpaper in what had been a bedroom, tatters of matching curtains at a window. Against one wall an old iron-tube bedstead, mattressless now, but in an earlier time a place of rest, love, possibly even birth and death.
Underneath a fallen cabinet door, scattered in the dirt, I found stuck-together picture postcards, yellowed receipts from the 1930s, nearly disintegrated newspaper clippings, a picture of a kitten cut from a calendar. Beneath all that, remnants of a cheap frame, and in it a small, sepia-tone photograph.
I lifted away the glass fragments. The photograph was so damaged I could scarcely make out the picture, but after wiping across it with my thumb, I could discern a couple (she standing, he seated), apparently young, certainly not wealthy. Perhaps her long, plain dress and carefully lifted hair showed this to be a wedding picture—though the gentleman (his hair center-parted like his full moustache) wore no collar or tie, only a rumpled jacket, vest, and black boots. Real people, I thought, who may once have lived in this house. Once happy, energetic, anticipating a new life on a new farm; now, barely discernable figures on a mildewed cardboard photo.
The marred image
When we human beings were first made, we were a very good and remarkably clear picture of God. We were, after all, designed to be quite like him. According to Genesis, God said, “ ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ ” (Genesis 1:26)—and so He did.
Some people claim that this means we humans are little gods, but that’s not what the Bible means. We sometimes say of a baby, “He’s the spittin’ image of his daddy!” but we’re in no danger of mistaking one for the other. Similarly, Adam and Eve were not gods themselves, but in some important ways they—and we--are very much like God. We have consciousness, free choice, and creativity. Had a stranger have met the first humans, he or she would have said, “I see the family resemblance to their Creator.”
Unfortunately, the resemblance has been marred. The story is an unhappy one, involving a tempter, deception, and a delusive freedom. We have no reason to believe that the fruit Adam and Eve ate was unusual, as fruit goes, except in this: God had asked them not to eat it. When they did, they took upon themselves the awful consequences of defying their own Creator. From that moment, the life-giving connection between Creator and creation was damaged, and the once clear image of God in humankind began to fade.
A number of years ago I visited a museum in one of the ancient cities of the Mediterranean, and I noticed several statues that had broken faces. My guide explained that when a conqueror took over a country, the new ruler would kill the old ruler and also deface all of the statues of him and his family and friends.
So it was with God’s enemy, Satan. Because he hated God, he hated God’s creation. Under his influence, God’s handiwork began to decay—and that included human beings. Adam’s and Eve’s bodies aged. For the first time, they realized that they would die.
Satan especially encouraged their moral corruption, and one of the very first crises he incited was the murder of their son Abel by his brother Cain. Jealousy, hatred, war, lust, greed—all promoted by Satan, and eventually participated in by folks like you and me by means of the choices we make each day of our lives.
The disintegration of the image of God in us has continued for thousands of years. You might think it impossible that the Creator’s image could still be discerned in the face or the character of a homicidal dictator, a drug-addicted prostitute, a child abuser, a terrorist. But it’s there. Beneath the shards, underneath the grime, we see the image of God. The image is marred, but it isn’t obliterated.
In another museum, I stood before a centuries-old painting by a great European master. A sign near it said, “Until recently, only faint outlines could be seen on this canvas. When art restorers painstakingly cleaned off centuries of accumulated dirt and smoke, this bright and beautiful picture emerged.”
Marred and broken, stained with sin, Adam and Eve and all of their billions of descendants were in need of restoration. They couldn’t repair themselves. They needed a restorer who could lift from them the accumulated centuries of failure, pain, unhappiness, and physical and mental decline. But who could help them?
An acquaintance of mine had in younger days been an engineer for the team that built the legendary 1965 Shelby Cobra Mustang automobile. Years after he’d retired, he got a call from a car collector who’d located one of my friend’s original handmade concept cars, though now in dismal condition. “Will you help me?” he asked the engineer. “I want to restore it precisely as it was. Who better to ask than the man who built it in the first place?”
And who better to restore the image of God in humankind than the One who created us in the first place?
As horrible as is the story of our first parents’ disobedience, just as beautiful is the story of our restoration. It begins with a baby born into a family so poor that He spent his first night in a cow trough! Yet that Babe was none other than God in a human body!
He grew into a man of perfect character, teaching truths that astound all who heard them. He healed the sick, fed the poor, and made corpses come alive. Even His tragic, youthful martyrdom glows with the beauty of perfect unselfishness and transcendent love for those who hated Him.
Best of all, his death was not the end, for three days later God gave him life again; as one Bible paraphrase puts it, His resurrection was “the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries” (1 Corinthians 15:20, The Message).
The moment you accept Jesus Christ into your life, your restoration begins. Because, you see, no matter how damaged you are, no matter how broken, the indelible image of God remains. When you let Him, He’ll painstakingly clean away your pain and sadness, erasing bad habits and character flaws. Once again, his loveliness will shine through you!
I left the photograph lying on the floor of the old Kentucky house. It was too damaged to bother with; nothing I could do would make it beautiful again. Surprisingly, what is true of the photograph is not true of its subjects! Though their bones may now lie in a Kentucky graveyard, God has the power to restore them to life. The apostle Paul wrote, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14).
And I’m delighted to say that it will be a better life than this one, because we will be restored to just what God originally created humankind to be. “We will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet,” says Paul. “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:51).
Our restoration will be complete!