The image is one thing
and the human being another;
it’s very hard to live up to an image.
Elvis made this statement during a 1972 press conference for the Madison Square Garden concerts. While this revealing statement was about himself it has unintentional profound considerations. The imago Dei is Latin for the image of God. In Christian theology this simply means all humankind is made in the image of God. But what does that mean? Equally importantly, what does it mean to be human? Whether or not Elvis asked questions like these is unknown, but every truth seeker and thinker will ask themselves some form of these questions. Undoubtedly, he probably did ask questions like these.
When the bible in the Genesis records state, God created [humankind] in His own image, it doesn’t mean God looks like us or we look like God. It means God created us with certain capabilities. Two are annotated.
- Relational capabilities – the ability to communicate, to reason, to love.
- Moral capabilities – the ability to obey or disobey God’s instructions.
And He created us with a body, mind, and spirit to be able to use each of these capabilities to intelligently live in this world. Space doesn’t permit for a lengthy biblical, theological discourse about this doctrine. It only gives a small picture and brief definition about what it means to be created in the image of God. If we can grasp this meaning, then the next question is what does it mean to be human? This is a question which has been debated since creation, so the answers are numerous. The answer depends on one’s worldview. Again, space does not permit an exhaustive discourse on this philosophical paradigm and this devotion can only point out the tip of the iceberg.
Elvis said, “It’s hard to live up to an image.” It is not only hard to live up to an image, but when it comes to living up to the imago Dei it is nearly impossible. Sinful, human nature muddles our capability to live up to the image of God because we want to live up to an image of our own creation; and define for ourselves what it means to be human without God.
Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” In other words, Jesus showed us what it means to be the imago Dei and to be human with this declaration. Jesus was saying He and God are one; therefore, if we are to be human and live up to the image of God, then we must also be one with God. If we can become one with God, then we will be able to use our relational capabilities to communicate, to reason, and to love not only God, but also humanity as Jesus does, and did, when he walked the earth. We can use our moral capabilities to not only obey God, but also create moral ethics and laws which allow us to live in harmony with humanity; but also protect us from those who would violate morals to harm humanity. While we can be fully human without God, we cannot be fully human and live up to the image of God, and see others are made in the same image, without Jesus.
Elvis was both a man, made in the image of God, and an image of the greatest entertainer with incomparable talent and fame. However, he could never completely be himself – flawed, insecure, imperfect – and maintain the image his fans expected him to be. He couldn’t harmonize his image with his humanity and be both man and the King of Rock & Roll. With Jesus, we can be fully human – flawed, insecure, imperfect – and live up to the image of God. Christianity provides the means to successfully harmonize our humanity with the image of God. This is what it means to be human.