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Reclaiming the Imago Dei – the key to identity and purpose

  | Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

The search for one’s identity has become a popular trend in our culture, but it is an age-old question that has burned in the hearts of human beings for millenniums.  And the need for identity comes down to two ultimate questions:

1. Who am I?
2. Why am I here? 

They are important questions. Yet, while people continue to search for these answers, many don’t realize that God considered our identities vital — so much so, He gives us the answers right from the beginning of time as recorded in Genesis 1:26-27.  As the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) discusses the creation of humankind, He says:

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“’Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

In just two verses of the Bible, we learn an incredible truth about ourselves — a truth that people from all cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities have searched and longed for throughout history. God specifically tells all of us who we are (our identity) and why we exist (our purpose).

“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness ...”

We are created in the image of God, meaning that we bear His image socially, emotionally, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. Humanity, in its original design, reflects the image of the One who conceived it.

Think about that for a moment. How could we be insignificant or of little value if we were made to reflect the image of God? 

All of God’s creation gives Him glory and points to His design. Yet humans have a special place in His created order — we reflect (as in a mirror) His likeness; His identity has been placed on each of us!  There is nothing in Creation, besides human beings, which has been given this important distinction. 

Since every human being has this imprint of God’s image, you might think that means we are all rubber stamps or the same. Though we all have been created in His image, we have also been personally and distinctly given individual traits, gifts, physical appearance, and much more. We are all unique and personally known by God.

“In the Bible, God tells us, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you ...’”

You are not an accident. You were designed and created by God to reflect His image, to know Him, and to be known by Him. As a result, each person is worthy of being valued and each individual has been given a divine purpose in this world.

As we look around in our world, it might be hard to understand how this all could be true. Many people are being hurt and abused by others, some people are consumed by such great despair that they take their own lives, while others, feeling marginalized, unwanted, or unloved, seek to find their identity and purpose in a myriad of different ways.

Why is this the case?

“Jesus said, ‘The devil comes to kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly ...’”

When God created mankind, everything in the world was perfect — including humans. But, sadly, our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, were tempted by Satan and chose to go against the one (yes one) directive that God gave them.  Known as the “Fall” sin entered the world and impacted not only human beings but all of creation as well.

Sin separated human beings from God. It distorted our view of the image of God that we bear, as well as our understanding of the One who created us. Jesus came to earth to redeem us from our sins, restore our relationship with God, and give us the promise of eternal life for all who believe in Him.

Through Jesus Christ, we can see ourselves and others as bearing the image of God. When we see people in this light, we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves. 

In Jesus, we have a new life, a new lens, a new vision, and a new value. We are God’s masterpiece — loved and known by Him. He has made us in His image — it’s something that we receive and not something we achieve. His image is our very being, and we can reclaim that image over every part of our lives — our family systems, our relationships, our sexuality, our mental health, our treatment of others, our thoughts, our actions, and more.

Have you embraced your identity in Christ? If not, it’s time to reclaim the Imago Dei. That’s the best Christmas present you could ever ask for or receive this year.

Kirk Rupprecht is Church planter and Lead Pastor of Commonplace Church in New Jersey. A graduate of Eastern University, Kirk served as campus pastor for eight years with Emergence Church before his current role at Commonplace Church. He loves Jesus and His Church. Kirk is a devoted husband and father of three. He is also a music enthusiast and known for figuring out a way to injure himself while on family vacations.

Dr. Mark M. McNear is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, maintaining a private practice in New Jersey. He has over 30 years of experience in clinical work. A graduate of Northeastern Bible College, New York University, and Oxford Graduate School, Dr. McNear just released his memoir, Finding My Words: A Ruthless Commitment to Healing Gently After Trauma, through Renown Publishing.

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