What constitutes being human? With ongoing debates in society around gender identity and what it means to be male or female, this foundational question is often overlooked. When it is considered, discussions usually focus on potential or function. In essence, human identity is frequently tied to future aspirations or current occupations.
Think about it. When asked about our profession, we respond, “I am a [fill in the blank].” Conversations about safeguarding the vulnerable often highlight their potential contributions—potential doctors, engineers, or artists. However, this utilitarian perspective seems inadequate in truly defining our humanity. It is a flawed approach, yet one that the world around us seems to adapt readily.
Moving Beyond Utility
Limiting human identity to profession, education, sexuality, intelligence, or any other metric is a gross underestimation. Such narrow definitions fall short of the grand design our Creator had in mind. But God, the master architect of our existence, offers a more profound understanding of our human identity.
How does God define humanity? According to the Genesis account, a human being is a being created in His image (Gen. 1:26). But what does this mean in practical terms?
Unpacking the Image of God
If being human means being created in God’s image, what does that entail? The Bible hints at God creating us in His likeness but doesn’t provide a detailed blueprint. However, it does offer clues throughout its pages. The Bible suggests that as God’s image bearers, we reflect aspects of God’s attributes to the rest of creation in three intertwined ways:
1. Our Nature:
We share inherent characteristics with God, our Creator, by virtue of being made in His likeness. Just as He is creative, communicative, logical, rational, moral, and compassionate, so are we. These qualities are embedded in our DNA, a part of our very essence.
2. Our Actions:
God bestowed upon human authority and responsibility over creation. This is what’s meant by the phrases “rule” and “subdue,” or “have dominion.” As we responsibly manage the earth and its resources, we reflect God’s stewardship and nurture scientific and technological advancements.
3. Our Relationships:
Humans are relational beings by design. In the Genesis account, the only thing God deemed “not good” was for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). This led to the creation of the first woman, a complement to the man and his equal. Our relationships, whether marital or platonic, echo the eternal community of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the divine Trinity.
We Are Image-Bearers
As Christians navigate conversations around gender and the distinct, intentional creation of males and females, it’s crucial to remember this fundamental truth: we are what our Creator declares us to be.
God has bestowed upon us unique characteristics, enabling us to mirror Him. Even though our sinful nature distorts our reflection of God, we still bear His image. Regardless of societal messages or personal failings, we remain what our Creator proclaims: His image-bearers. No one and nothing can strip us of this profound identity. In understanding this, we can better appreciate and navigate the complexities of what it truly means to be human.