I've been thinking recently about what it means that God created us in His image, His likeness.
The understanding of a living organism must go beyond knowing how it is structured (its anatomy) to how it functions (its physiology). And as amazing as our Creator has created our anatomy, it is equally amazing to see how he has created our physiology.
“The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
Here in Genesis we see the distinction between anatomy and physiology. When God “forms” he creates our anatomy. When he “breathes into” our lifeless anatomy, we become living, breathing, laughing, digesting, metabolizing, smelling, seeing, hearing, growing, thinking, hoping, indeed physiologic beings. The term “living being” used here is significant. Don’t gloss so quickly past the phrase that you miss its significance. Could it be that when God created us as “living beings” that both words, living and being, might carry equal weight in how we bear His image? When God forms us from dust we are yet, and very simply, a “being.” Only when He breathes into us are we transformed into a “living being.” The very act of God’s breathing His breath into us is just as much a part of our creation as is the forming us from dust. God created you by forming you AND by breathing into you. Form equals anatomy. Breath brings physiology.
“God created man in his own image.” Gen 1:27
Note carefully, it does not say here that God created man in his own form. It does not say that we were created to resemble him in a strictly anatomic way, although that is part of it. When it says we are created in his own image, the function (physiology) He created us to possess was also intended to bear His image! Form and function. Anatomy and physiology. Out of dust, and from His breath. What we are and who we are. All deliberate, necessary components of image of the God.
When God first created man and woman, they bore His image, His likeness. They were “living beings.” They were like Him in their being; they were like Him in their living. They were like Him anatomically; they were like Him physiologically. Later sin would corrupt both aspects of that likeness: form and function, being and living. Anatomy fell corrupt: to disease, decay and death. Physiology fell corrupt: to disorders, derangements, and disharmony. Today, we still bear the corrupt scars of sin. No one is immune.
"Living beings." It’s the "living" part we have the most problem with. We chalk up the three-score-and-seven aspect of our existence, our "beings," to fate or luck or lifestyle choices. But we struggle with living, really living. God-centered, purpose-filled, full-of-meaning living. Who among us doesn’t want to know that the life they’re living counts for something, that they’re not the result of some cosmic accident?
“You have made known to me the path of life…” David
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deut. 30:19-20
Choose life? Is life a choice, like choosing whether I want dessert or not? Can I really decide whether or not to have life, like deciding if I want to accept a job offer?
“I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus John 10:10
It is clear: God, in Jesus, wants us to have life. But He allows us to choose whether or not we want this life. “The work of God is this,” Jesus tells us, “to believe in the one he has sent.” “He who believes has everlasting life.” John 6:47 The implication is that it is possible to be, to exist, but not to live. Note that Jesus is not saying, “He who believes will have an everlasting existence.” Who wants to live forever if it is all just existence that has no purpose or meaning?
It is possible to exist without living, partial image-bearers of God. Just vague representations. Some years ago I visited the Museum of Art, in Chicago, when the Egyptian exhibit came into town. I especially remember standing in respectful awe in front of many of the mummies on display. I was fascinated as I gazed at the skeletal remains of what, thousands of years ago, was a living, breathing human being. I was intrigued by some of the features that were preserved: the leathery tissue left covering the skull and face, providing a sense of the facial features. Hair, still attached to the scalp. Fingernails. Vague representations of a life lived. Kind of spooky. Very real.
In what sense are we just vague representations of what God initially created us to be? Vestiges of “better days”? Bodies still intact, but whose “life” has long since departed? Spiritual corpses?
A slogan made popular by the pro-life movement simply states, “Choose Life.” In like manner, God makes it abundantly clear: “Choose Life!” Life is a choice! We don’t have to live. God doesn’t force it on us. We can go through life simply existing. But Jesus says He has come that we may have life… a rich, meaningful, physiologic, image-bearing, purposeful life! Rick Warren surprised the publishing world by the enormous and long-lived popularity of his book, The Purpose Driven Life. But think about it. Is it really any surprise that the number one need in all of our lives is for purpose? Purpose that transforms merely existing into abundant living? Purpose that breathes life into the corpse of our existence? Purpose that busts us out of the museum of dead corpses into a world of relationships and growth and meaning?