What Does it Mean to Be Made in the Image of God?

God created mankind in his image;
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

You’ve likely heard many times that you are made in the image and likeness of God. The phrase has a scriptural basis, but what does it mean? What does it mean to be made in the image of our creator?

Fr. Richard Simon, known for his love of languages, broke down the meaning and translation of the word. “The word for image in Hebrew is tselem. … And that word tselem can mean a phantom, in other words a ghost, a spirit. But it mostly means image or likeness, a reflection.”

How can we, sinful and mortal creatures, be made in the image of the almighty God? How could we possibly reflect our creator who knows all, loves perfectly, and is infinitely just and merciful?

“In what way do we look like God? And this is what I think: when I love genuinely, sacrificially, with a holy love, I am doing what God is doing. Not to the quantity or perfection that God is doing it, but I am capable of loving in the way that God is capable of love,” explained Fr. Simon.

He explained the four types of love: eros, storge, philia, and agape. “The fourth, which is used almost exclusively in the scriptures, agape, which came to mean sacrificial love. It was a rather rare word in Ancient Greek. And the idea that God is love—I almost think you could take love out of the bible and put in the word sacrifice. God is sacrifice.”

“We are uniquely capable, we think, among the creatures to love in the way that God loves,” said Fr. Simon. This is how we are made in God’s image. “When we truly love selflessly, sacrificially, we are doing what God does. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only son.’”

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