Continued from Created in His Image: Reflecting, Relating, Reigning
The tragic reality, however, is that the mirror itself has been shattered. We rebelled against God and now live under his judgment and wrath (Gen. 3:16–19; Rom. 1:18). The image of God is therefore distorted. In Calvin’s words, God’s image is deformed, vitiated, mutilated, maimed, disease-ridden, and disfigured.
This is true for all of us. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We have failed to glorify God by not loving his person, obeying his laws, and delighting in his glory. Rather than exclusively worshiping our glorious Creator, we have served and worshiped created things (Rom. 1:21–23). We are “alienated from the life of God” and “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 4:18; 2:1). The image of God within us has become so marred and distorted that each of us, without exception, fails to display his character in fullness.
The Gravity of Sin
But we don’t realize the gravity of this evil. Our souls are so calloused by sin that we do not sense its infinite offensiveness to God. All sin—even so-called little sins—are evil because they are ultimately committed against our infinitely holy God. When we sin against God we spurn his honor, preferring other things to his glory. Even when we sin against other human beings, we simultaneously assault God’s glory by hurting those who bear his image. James condemns us for using our tongues to curse others because they are “people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9).
David committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered her husband, and covered his sin so the public would not know. Yes, these were grievous and horrible sins against people, but David’s confession to God reveals his deeper understanding. They were not just sins against people. They were sins against God: violations of his law, infractions of his will, assaults on those who bore his image, and therefore, on God himself. That is why David confessed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).
Every sin against a human being is also a sin against God. Egotism, lust, bitterness, gossip, slander, racial prejudice, violence, the devaluing of human life—these are sins against God’s image-bearers, and therefore sins against God himself.
The Consequences of Sin
The consequences of sin are devastating; damaging each of the three relationships for which we were created—that is, relationships humans have with God, one another, and nature.
We see these consequences in Genesis 3, following the sin of the first man and woman. Before sin, they had enjoyed unbroken friendship with God. But after their sinful rebellion, they hid from him in shame and fear, trying without success to cover their shame with fig leaves. Before sin, they had also enjoyed the only perfect marriage that ever existed (Gen. 2:21–25). But following that fatal taste of the forbidden fruit, their relationship was characterized by shame, blame-shifting, and conflict. Before sin, they lived in paradise—a perfect environment. But ever since, humans have lived in conflict with a world under God’s curse (Gen. 3:7–19).
- Sin alienates us from God, leaving us spiritually dead, enslaved to our passions, and subject to God’s just wrath (Eph. 2:1–3; 4:18–19).
- Sin also brings conflict into human relationships: between husbands and wives; parents and children; and people of different races, languages, and nations.
- Sin is also what put us in conflict with the created order. Originally a welcoming environment, the earth is now hostile to human life in significant ways. Natural disasters, environmental devastation, and the harshness of the elements are just some of the consequences of our rebellion against God.
So, do human beings still bear God’s image, given the extent of sin’s devastation? The answer is Yes . . . sort of. Genesis 5:1–3 and 9:6—both written of the post-fall world—echo Genesis 1:26–28 by indicating that we do continue to bear God’s image. But as Calvin said, “even though we grant that God’s image was not totally annihilated and destroyed in him, yet it was so corrupted that whatever remains is frightful deformity.” A trace of his image is still present, but not enough for people to rightly perceive his glory and give him the honor he deserves.
We humans are amazing in our ability to imitate the Creator in countless ways: composing symphonies; painting beautiful landscapes; building cathedrals, skyscrapers, and bridges; and sending explorers into space. But as magnificent as these accomplishments are, they fall far short of God’s intention, when done without regard for his honor and glory. We are glorious ruins! Tiny flashes of light flicker in our achievements. But these are merely distorted glimmers of glory in the broken shards of our fallen, fragmented world.
Excerpted from Christ Formed in You by Brian G. Hedges