Living in the Image of God
Every person is created to represent God in interactions among people: to convey his presence and impact as if he was there physically in human form. Those that live according to this purpose will follow God’s schedule and receive fulfillment of his promise. In contrast, those that depart from the purpose will depart from God’s schedule. Examples from David illustrate his approach in interactions with Saul satisfy God’s mandate of keeping “the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” The approach contributed to his success on a path to kingship that lasted over ten years and included transition from Saul, training for David, and preparing Israel to accept David as king. Two encounters with Saul presented opportunities for David that could have been misinterpreted. Saul conceded the kingship to David on both occasions as David’s commitment to “right and just” prevailed over the temptation to clear his way to the kingship by killing Saul. The concession contributed to preparing Israel to accept David as king.
GOD’S AMBASSADOR God creates every person to represent him among others and wants us to fulfill the purpose in interactions among people and between people and other creations. To understand the biblical basis for this statement, we note that God is supernatural, created the universe (including the earth and its inhabitants) to work naturally, and wants to interact seamlessly with the universe and its constituents. Let’s focus on people and the earth. God creates people and other inhabitants of the earth to work naturally and wants to interact seamlessly with them. He can interact with people through the Holy Spirit but the interaction is supernatural and doesn’t fill the need for natural interaction with people.
To understand the importance of working naturally, imagine a person’s bank account suddenly swells with a large amount of money that is not traceable to any natural source. How would other people, including the regulatory authorities, respond to the change? It would be unacceptable to say that God gave the money. That is a supernatural explanation. The natural system requires a natural explanation. As a second example, how would people respond to a full-grown tree appearing suddenly in the middle of a highway? Or a person showing up one day to claim the presidency of a country saying God appointed him/her president? God can do any of these but chooses the natural way to do them.
The natural way requires interactions among people following certain rules and processes while God channels his participation in the interactions through the people. For example, if he wants to provide money to a person, he works with the person and others to provide the money naturally. He works through people in every situation to implement changes naturally to fulfill his purpose. He creates every person to represent him in interactions among people to fulfill his purpose in every situation.
The biblical basis for this understanding is in God’s declaration of his purpose for humans: “Let Us make man in Our image…” [Genesis 1:26], which we paraphrase as: let us create every person to represent God (his presence, desire, approach, methods, sensitivity, compassion, etc.) in interactions among people and between people and other inhabitants of the earth. The paraphrase helps us understand the declaration to mean that God creates every person to be his channel for natural interactions with other people.