Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, the Columbine shooters, the 9/11 terrorists – how did any of these people ever manifest the image of God? They were cruel, misguided individuals who destroyed the lives of others. 

Yes, the Bible tells me that every human being is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But what do I do with the despots, murderers and purveyors of brutality?

I don’t even have to go with these worst-case examples. A co-worker roughs me up with negative comments during a meeting. A stranger yells abusive words as he passes me on the road because I wasn’t going fast enough. The neighbour kid kills a songbird with his BB gun. Cruelty and crassness surround me, not the lustre of a beautiful creation.

Where’s the imprint?

My own home life can be grim, too. My kids squabble over the most unimportant matters to the point of screaming and slamming doors. They disobey me but feign ignorance.

Then I face that individual who glares back from the mirror. Can it be true that I – the guy who just made my daughter cry, the guy who just fantasized about saying something mean to my boss – am made in the image of God? It seems like a real stretch some days.

The Bible, however, is unyielding in the truth of God’s design. Instead of grousing, what if I began to take this seriously? What if I believed King David, who wrote, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Psalm 139:14)?

For one, I’d have to repent – repent of doubting the goodness of God’s creation, in spite of my current messed-up condition. I am treasured and bear His imprint.

He’s given me a mind that can think and create. He’s given me a voice that can speak and sing. He’s given me the capacity for relationships with family and friends, neighbours and co-workers. I have a conscience that, when guided by truth, serves as a compass for right.

Change of view

If I can begin to see myself this way, is it possible that I could think of others this way, too? That I should? "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view," Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16.

So Fred, who humiliated me in front of the office staff, is valuable in God’s sight – and not because he might say he is sorry or realize he’s been a self-centred jerk. This doesn’t mean I pretend Fred’s comments didn’t sting, but I continue to honour him as God’s creation.

By God’s power, I can surrender my hatred and desire for revenge. I can forgive Fred. I can pray for Fred. I can interact with Fred in a respectful way. Maybe God wants me to learn some things by knowing Fred and vice versa.

What if Fred met the Creator of his soul? How cool would it be for Fred to experience God’s acceptance and mercy? Those questions begin percolating as I focus on God’s point of view, rather than mine.

Sure, I know Fred might never ask Jesus into his life. He may stay the way he is. Yet somehow my heart has softened as I’ve affirmed that God has paid the price for Fred’s sins already and yearns for a personal relationship with him.

Maybe I despair, wondering if someone will change. I throw up my hands and say, "Forget it; she’ll never get it." God’s Word says my friend is still valued and loved by the Lord.

The dilemma

But what about those worst-case examples? They present a dilemma. However, God’s truth isn’t selective. With an eternal perspective streaming through my mind, I begin to see, quite correctly, that God’s image is always there. I just need the Truth to wash away the grime of my muddled thinking and see others through God’s eyes.

Clem Boyd lived with his wife, Julia, in Beavercreek, Ohio at the time of publication.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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