Image of God

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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Christianity has been interpreted in many ways by different theologians and lay people. As much as this subject is studied there continues to be an ongoing differing of opinions relating to what it means to be created in the image of God. However, even with the differing of opinions, Christian faith is based on the central belief that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that his life on earth, his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven are proof of God's love for humanity. infoplease. com, 2010). Although Christian beliefs are based on the New Testament, Christianity still views the Old Testament as a very important part of its faith and uses it often in reference and teaching. This paper will first discuss what it means to be created in the image of God as it pertains to my opinion and second how my beliefs on this subject are incorporated into my nursing practice.

Man in God’s Image “The most distinctive feature of the biblical understanding of man is the teaching that man has been created in the image of God”. Hoekema, 1986). The bible refers to man being made in God’s image in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the book of Genesis references man being made in God’s image in the Creation Story, in explanation of the generations of Adam to Noah and also again in the Covenant With Noah. Genesis: 1:26-28; 5:1-3 and 9:6. The New Testament references in many different books that man was made in the likeness of God and also speaks frequently of Jesus as being the perfect man who is made in the image of God.

Hoekema states “Since Christ was totally without sin (Heb 4:15), in Christ we see the image of God in its perfection”. Christian belief follows that man was made in the image of God; however, differing theologians have developed differing theories over the years in regards to what it means to be made in the image of God. Theologian Saint Augustine of Hippo believed that humanity, which was created in the image of God, also had an image of the Trinity within it. He believed that there was evidence of the trinity within the human mind such as love, being, knowing, willing and understanding. (newworldencyclopedia. rg, 2010). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) “Of all visible creatures only man is ‘able to know and love his creator’. He is ‘the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake’, Man occupies a unique place in creation, he is ‘in the image of God”. God, creator of all life, made man unique apart from other living things by giving him gifts such as dignity, self-knowledge, self-possession, the ability to commune with others, free will, faith and love. Creation began with Adam and has been passed down to all of humanity which, in turn, results in a unity within humanity.

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Acts 17:26 states “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions”. Because creation began with Adam, who was created in God’s image, and we are all from Adam, we too are created in God’s image. The question is what does this mean? For some it means, contrary to my personal beliefs, that with the Fall of Adam and the development of sin the image of God in humanity has been destroyed or corrupted. So what does it mean to be created in God’s image? Man was created with definitive differences from other animals.

I believe animals are capable of love and all living things possess and innate ability for survival. I also believe that some animals are capable of a higher cognitive reasoning to an extent. For example, both sharks and chimpanzees have been taught to use a higher thought function in turn producing higher cognition. There is life, even within plants, that manifests and grows. However, God gave man a soul that with his body creates a unity. A soul that possesses unique gifts that other living things do not have. God gave man the ability to develop relationships with others and with God himself.

I believe that God initially created man for companionship and love. Because of this our Creator has made a never-ending covenant with us and loves us unconditionally. I believe that God created man and woman equally and that the first union is the first representation of communion among humans. I believe that our humanity, made in God’s image, is created good. I believe that although there is sin in all of us, this sin does not corrupt our souls but because of Adam’s original sin, it is now within all of us, not as a personal fault but a flaw of humanity.

A “wounded nature” (CCC). I believe that man is capable of personal sin and does so on a daily basis because of this wounded nature, however, God gave us free will and man has the choice of right and wrong. Unfortunately, since the Fall, man is no longer perfect with a divine likeness and sin is actually a proper state within humanity. Meaning that “As a result of its original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the domination of death; and inclined to sin”. (CCC).

God’s image remains present in us because we are created by God. Good remains present in us because we are created by God. This can be evidenced by seeing humanity helping each other in times of need, seeing love shared in so many forms and present in so many deeds, seeing the overall beauty of humanity that is present even though we live in a world of sin and imperfection. Man remains hopeful in many ways and the Grace of God shines through in many situations. With all of this happening on a continual basis how could one question that man has lost his image of God?

Yes, there is evil present in the world, as stated earlier mankind is weakened, only weakened, not distorted and corrupt. Personal Beliefs for Serving those in Need of Healthcare Now that ground has been established for how man is created in God’s image I would like to discuss how I personally not only see this within my nursing practice but also how I use it to provide care to patients. Shelly and Miller state that “The role of the nurse grew out a Christian understanding of the human person as created in the image of God and viewed the body as a living unity and the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor 3:16)”.

As a nurse I find that this statement has very a great deal of truth in it. Nurses view the body as a Temple in many ways and assist those in who are not able to care for themselves. I feel that because we are created in God’s image, we should work to take care of ourselves and try to maintain a disease free state. Unfortunately, there are people who do not always share this view; this is where keeping God with us while giving care becomes very important. As nurses, whether it is an advanced practice nurse or a floor staff nurse, we have a desire to care for others.

We want to help them return to a functioning state of health, whatever that may be because it differs depending on disease process. However, often times because a person has a chronic disease, he or she does not want to participate in their care or is short tempered with the staff that cares for this person. When this happens it is easy for a nurse to also become defensive and give less of herself to this person. Unfortunately, this happens frequently on busy units and emergency departments. If the nurse is not careful, he or she can become jaded and judgmental developing preconceived notions of patients based olely on the diagnosis or actions from the patient. However, if the nurse keeps God in her mind and close to her heart he or she is able to see the patient in a different light and can care for this patient in their diseased state knowing that we are all children of God and made in his image. In order to take optimal, holistic care of our patients we need to always keep with us that humanity is created in God’s image and that life is a sacred gift that we should respect on all levels no matter who the person is or how he or she may differ from yourself.

When I am caring for my patients I try to always be not only sympathetic but empathetic. Being sick is a scary thing and often times the outcomes are unknown at the time of the present illness. Fear of the unknown is one of the most common stressors a person can have. So, if you take the stress of “not knowing” and combine it with the physical stress of being sick and emotional stress that accompanies not feeling well you can easily see that nurses often take care of patients when they are not only at a suboptimal level physically but also emotionally and often times spiritually.

With this in mind one can understand the struggle on both sides of the spectrum; a person is at a place where he or she is requiring care from someone other than themselves. This person is a consumer and knows that he or she is paying for the care that is being received, with this in mind one can see how this can easily be looked at from a business-like perspective meaning basically an exchange of transactions and nothing more. However, in healthcare there is the human aspect that is very unique among business.

We are in the business of caring. As nurses we not only know this, we feel this. We see a person in need and provide care for that person, this alone has aspects of the image of God within it. The desire to provide care and love for another being even when this being is not always acting kind or “doing the right thing” is a grace given to us by God. Jesus, the son of God, the second person of Trinity was a great healer and a caring, loving man. In all four of the Gospels, there are acts of healing documented that Jesus performed.

Understanding that Jesus wanted to heal afflictions and help those who could not help themselves and knowing that he did this with kindness and love in his heart keeps me true to my profession and spirituality. Not everyone is blessed with good health and even those who are experience tragic events. Because humanity is a union, created by God and in the image of God, we are called to help one another not only in times of need but on a daily basis. I think that in doing this we strengthen our relationship between each other and with God.

As a nurse I keep this in perspective so that I am not only helping my patients but also my patient’s family members, my fellow co-workers, and visitors with anything that I can. It is easy to look at a portion of the picture, but we should always take a few steps back and look at the whole picture. In doing this it helps facilitate not only one area but all areas. Jesus was always able to explain to his apostles the whole of a situation when they asked him questions, looking at a problem as a whole, rather than a portion makes it easier to treat everyone involved, not just one person.

God has given humanity many gifts, such as the ones mentioned above. God also gives individuals gifts and graces them with the ability to perform and strengthen the gifts given to them. Although we are made in the image of God, people can differ a great deal. They differ in actions, opinions, thought and feelings this is a gift in itself. As nurses God has granted us with gifts of empathy, compassion, intuition and understanding. As much as nursing is a science it also holds a strong component of intuition and feeling.

A patient connects with the nurse at the bedside because of the feelings that they share and experience together. When a nurse and a patient are able to connect on this level relationships are formed and care is given, received and collaborated. This bond that is created is another example of how we are created in God’s image and how we share this with others. Conclusion “To be created in the image of God means that we must look to God for our meaning, purpose, and direction. It also makes us thinking, willing, feeling, relational creatures who reflect these attributes of our Creator”. Shelly ; Miller, 2006). With this in mind we can all realize that to be created in the image of God is a gift, from a loving, relational God. I feel that if we can keep this thought in perspective, that our life, created in His image, is a gift and remain thankful for this gift we will be able to serve others with God in our hearts and minds. God did not create us to be solitary beings. He created us to commune together, to love one another and to help one another. Although our divine likeness has been weakened, it still remains and it is our responsibility to nurture our faith and help it o grow. When we do this we become closer to God and strengthen our bond not only with our love for humanity and the union we share with it but also our bond with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When we feel that closeness and strength it helps us to remember that we were created in His image and likeness which in turn helps us to live our faith. References Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000. Christianity: Central Beliefs. (2010). Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www. infoplease. com/ce6/society/A0857333. tml#ixzz0zQKnLsSt Created in god's image. (1986). Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans. New American Bible, (1991). St. Joseph ed. Catholic book Publishing Corporation. New World Encyclopedia Online. (2010). Augustine of Hippo. Retrieved September 13, 2010, from http://www. newworldencyclopedia. org/entry/Augustine_of_Hippo Shelly, J. A. , & Miller, A. B. (2006). Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing. 2nd ed. InterVarsity Press: Downersgrove, IL. What it Means for Humans to be Created in the Image of God THEO/532 September 14, 2010 Brandy Perkins Malone University

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