What I’m about to claim may seem a little Christian-y (although the text I’m considering is also used by Jews and Muslims). Despite its religious affiliation, however, this lesson is valuable for everyone to see since it has huge implications, and not understanding it has led to some tragic mistreatments of women and other cultures. And now, in a social media culture where there is a lot of vengeful hate and blame toward men, it becomes important to clear up this lie to prevent any further damage. .
In the very first book, in the very first chapter, in the very first story of the Bible, after all the world including the plants and animals are made, there is a crucial series of lines that sets up how humanity should see itself (but has typically missed it). In the Bible, firsts are important whether it’s the first words of a character or the first time an event happens because it’ll likely be reused later for symbolism and connection like the meeting a woman at the well theme. (Looking for themes in the Bible is actually pretty fun; it’s like a treasure hunt… for nerds.) This “first” I’m referring to is also the last of the creating creation days where the first five creating creation days culminate with the creation of humanity. This makes it both a first and a last – it’s that important:
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea…
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
Male and female he created them.
I should point out that I wrote each of those on their own line because that’s how they’re given in the text. I did that because this is the first time in the Bible lines are written like this, which further emphasizes its importance. We can also know it’s important because the point is written four times in four different ways like an old person who just wants an excuse to talk. Considering space was very limited in Bible stories (being handwritten on papyrus scrolls that didn’t last long encouraged that), to be this redundant, God and/or the writers were either losing their minds or they wanted to really, really, really, really emphasize how important it is to recognize that men and women are equal and both made in the image of God. It’s like God and/or the writers were like “I’m going to repeat this four times at the very beginning to make sure it won’t be missed… oh wait, people are that stupid.”
This story becomes all the more important because in chapter two there’s this strange retelling of the creation story where Adam is made before the animals and then Eve is made from Adam’s rib as his partner. I remember reading these two chapters as an early teen and being very confused: “Why is the story being redone and why is it different?” There are a few theories for this like chapter one and two are from two different texts that were later combined. Personally, I think it’s simpler than that: God and/or the writers wanted the first chapter to emphasize the equality of men and women before looking at the more specific details of chapter two because the second version can cause confusion of the equality of men and women. Even though the text clearly says “the two are united into one,” which means equality, this story can cause debate of who is superior, man being first or woman being the upgrade (aka are women more like cell phones or movies? Cell phones get better with each upgrade while sequels to movies tend to be terrible). Despite their start, we’re meant to focus on this important fact: men and women are equal. Even more, we are made in the image of God. I am made in the image of God. My wife is made in the image of God. You are made in the image of God. That’s a pretty amazing concept. Animals aren’t made in God’s image – we are. And we are both, man and woman, responsible for the world and taking care of it.
Anytime we feel like a loser or we’re not good enough in some way, we should remember we are made in the image of God. I am like the Creator of the universe… wow.
I’m sure the expert negative thinkers will twist this to say, “I’m made in the image of God, but I’m so damaged I might as well be thrown in the garbage, so He can try again.” This kind of thinking should lead to one of two conclusions. First, the negative thinker needs realize they’re either lying to themselves and they’re much better than they give themselves credit for or second, they need to change how they live. Let’s consider the first idea: If the person is lying to themselves and they’re better than they accept, their main flaw is lying to themselves. This lie is very dangerous because it gives them reason to be their own bully. Beating yourself up only makes you beaten up. It leaves you less helpful to others and enjoy life less – a lose-lose. If this is the case, they need to be nicer to themselves. Instead of being harsh, they should consider what someone who loves them would say: (other person) “You have many wonderful things about you…” or they need to consider what they would say to a loved one who was beating themselves up: (person) “Why can’t you see the good I can see in you?”
If the person feels like garbage because they need to change how they live, they simply need to start making some healthier choices. Sometimes we feel like garbage because we should. Our bodies warn us when something is wrong. Our body wants to help motivate us to be better, so it can feel good. If we feel like garbage, there’s a good chance it’s because we’ve been treating our body like garbage. If that’s the case, we feel exactly what we should feel because that’s our body’s way to motivate us to live better. Ultimately, negative thinkers need to realize there is no benefit to us seeing ourselves as garbage because we are made in the image of God and, therefore, have incredible potential – so live that way.
Another option for negative thinkers to screw up this incredible statement is to flip it to say, “If I am made in the image of God, I should be better unless God sucks and then I’m what I should be – someone who sucks.” If this is the case, then the logic is flawed because being made in the image doesn’t mean we’re exactly like Him – we have potential to be more like Him. In the Book of Proverbs (it’s a book of proverbs; the title makes sense) it talks a lot about the wise person and the fool. We have the potential to be both. It’s up to us how we live. God has given us a good start, but as you’ve likely noticed, some people live as fools.
A really twisted person will argue, “If both men and women are made in the image of God, then why do we call God a He?” That’s easy. We use “He” for God (I use the capital “H” as a sign of honor) because He’s described as the Father as a way to make Him more personal. Calling God an “It” makes Him feel like an alien. If we called Him a Dad-Mom or He-She; that would be confusing and lead to some bizarre human actions. Either way, He is no longer as relatable. A Father represents, love, strength, and provision. I should point out there’s a group who refer to the Holy Spirit as “She” to give the balance, but at some point it’s just semantics.
What’s important to recognize is that God is both male and female combined. He’s the perfect balance between the two genders. We are made in His image, so we both reflect who God is and how He works. He’s not a guy God with a strong feminine side. He’s both male and female, logical and emotional.
This idea that we’re made in the image of God is so important because it is meant to eliminate any chance of seeing men or women as less. Anyone who treats their gender as superior is lying to themselves, and any gender who allows it is being weak. Neither gender is better. We are different and no matter how different we may appear, we are all made in the image of God.
So why has there been so much inequality between men and women? Because people look for reasons to feel important and justify their selfishness and prideful behavior (aka they’re fools). These are the very things God wanted to prevent and why He was so adamant about stating we are all made in His image.
Bonus: This concept also eliminates any need for racism.
This week may you consider how we’ve made a mistake to not see men and women as equals.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)