Created in God's image

The very first words in all of scripture are some of my favorites: "In the beginning, God ..." We can argue forever about the details, but what's more important than those four words? God created the world and he created us. God spoke the world into being. When he spoke, what he said HAPPENED.

He created us because he wanted a family, because his very nature is love. And even though God's power is incomprehensibly vast, God insists that we share in His authority. No sooner was the earth created than God gave us authority over the birds, the fish, the animals, and so on. And surely, one of the most crucial things about this story in Genesis is the fact that God created us in His image.

Of course, we jump to the idea that God must have eyes, a mouth, two ears, maybe white hair and a long white beard, but actually, these verses about us being created in God's image aren't about the physical at all. So, what does it mean that we're created in God's image?

One of the first things that strikes me about this passage is the incredible power of the spoken word. God spoke - and creation happened. And because we're created in God's image, our simple words have power, too.

Our words can really, really hurt people, or they can bring healing.

Our words can be creative, or they can be destructive.

Our words can encourage people, or they can bring people down.

Our words can make conflict worse , or our words can help bring peace.

Loving others means we have to be aware of the way we speak and what we say, and be aware of the effect our words have on others.

Being created in the image of God means that our words are always tied to what we do. When God said something would happen, it happened. We've got to do what we say we're going to do, if we want to be heard, and build trust.

There's some truth to the saying that "talk's cheap." Always doing what we say we're going to do? That's a lot of work. But it's part of what it means to be created in the image of God.

Being created in the image of God means that we're RELATIONAL people, absolutely, all the time. God chose not to be alone. He said, "Let us make man in our image." And God, himself, is one being, in three persons. God, himself, is our model of what it means to be relational. And no sooner did he create one person, he created another one. It's really not good for us to be totally alone.

To be created in God's image means to be all about relationships - with God, with ourselves, and with others.

And being created in the image of God means we have to learn about God's authority, and to learn about the way we share in it. Too often, we think of authority as COMMAND - when we have the authority, we're the boss and everyone must do things our way. But true authority, God's authority, carries with it the idea of nurturing, caring for, protecting - the way we are with children, the way God instructed us to be with the world he'd just created, the way God is with us.

If we have authority over something, it's an immense responsibility and it NEVER means we just crack the whip and expect to be obeyed. If we're carrying authority the way it's meant to be carried, it means that the things and people who are under authority are well-loved and well-cared for, not just bossed around or made to feel small.

To be created in the image of God means to treat people the way God treats us. God has ultimate power, but he shares it with us - and the way he shows his authority over us is to continually offer us love, and protection, and forgiveness. In the relationships in our lives, we are to operate in our God-given authority - whether it's with children or grandchildren, employees we manage, or classes we teach or WHATEVER.

God has given us immense amounts of power: Our words are powerful; the deeds that are tied to our words are powerful; we've been given authority over the earth. But to be created in God's image means to use that power wisely, to care for the people and things we have authority over, and to stay in close relationship with God and with each other.

Ask God continually, not for more power, but for the wisdom and care to use the power we've already been given as those who have been created in God's image - in His love and grace.

Rev. Susan Bennett is pastor of Stockbridge Presbyterian Church. She and her husband live in Stockbridge with two giant Rottweilers and a 15-pound rescue dog who is the boss of everybody.