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“You know that is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”—1 Peter 1:18–191
Christians believe in the intrinsic value of every human being because we’re created in God’s image. Nothing negates that image and the value it instills in every human being, not even sin. Every human bears that value throughout his or her life. …
All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. While we call people to be reconciled to God, it doesn’t follow at all that some sins make some people less worthy, less valuable. In fact, it’s in virtue of every person’s inherent value as God’s creation that we cannot condone sin but also believe that every one of us is so loved that Jesus gave Himself to redeem us out of our sin. The Bible doesn’t devalue people by identifying our sin. God calls us to admit our sin precisely because we are His valuable and loved creations and He wants to reconcile us to Himself. And even rejecting this offer cannot negate someone’s intrinsic value.
Because the Bible tells us that we are all God’s creations with equal dignity and value, this is why Christianity as a worldview is superior to every other when it comes to supporting human equality. Materialism has a hold on our world right now. Humans are understood to be merely products of random, meaningless, physical processes. The only value and dignity possible are subjective, whatever someone chooses to assign. That kind of value can be granted and revoked—and it is every single day. That kind of worldview cannot support equality for every human being. …
The biblical worldview is the only foundation for valuing each and every person. Human beings are special because they aren’t accidents of evolution, but intentional, special creations by God, who placed His own image on us. He desires our fellowship. We are so loved and valued that He offers us a relationship that’s not dependent on our living up to a standard; by mercy and grace He offers it to us freely.
Tim Keller sums it up this way in The Reason for God: “The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone.”
The Christian Gospel answers the deepest cry of our hearts—to be loved and accepted, to be valued unconditionally.—Melinda Penner2
The cornerstone of your value
Jesus implied a very curious thing when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”3 Think about it. Loving others actually begins with loving oneself. In order to establish any guidelines on how to love others, we have to first figure out how to love ourselves.
These essential life lessons eluded me as I entered my teen years. I remember seriously lacking self-confidence. I was the short unnoticeable girl with the brown frizzy hair and big glasses. At least that’s how I saw myself. For a good couple of years I sought out affirmation and validation by doing things I thought others would like and I ended up loathing myself even more. After all, I had compromised so much for others that it was hard for me to respect myself.
I learned that as long as you are seeking your self-worth or validation from other people, you are going to come up lacking. People like your parents, family, and friends can certainly contribute to your feelings of confidence and value, but ultimately you are validated by two things: your belief in your God-given worth, and your understanding of your value in God’s eyes.
That last one really should be the cornerstone of your belief in your worth. You are special, loved, and valued because you are a creation of God. He envisioned and formed you. God could have made someone else instead, but He chose to make you. You are precious to God!
King David wrote the following about how God made us: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”4
That certainly doesn’t sound like something God just slopped together. You aren’t a collection of things He found lying around in His workshop. You are made intricately, wonderfully, fearfully, and with great love and care.
When you understand that you are special to God, this makes it easier for you to love and accept yourself. When you understand that you have tremendous value to God, it is easier to make decisions to avoid activities and situations that undermine your value. The cornerstone of your value is the knowledge of how precious you are to God.—Mara Hodler5
Made in the image of God—the basis for our significance
Martin Luther said that if he could understand the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer as Christ did, the rest of his life in Christ would fall into place. Luther’s observation shows that is it easy to use God’s words, but much more difficult to grasp the reality they signify.
This is true regarding the “image of God.” Most believers have heard of this concept, but few grasp the profound significance of its meaning. The image of God is a foundational concept for understanding our significance and purpose. Understanding how we are made in God’s image helps us to see the basis for the dignity and purpose of our life and work.
Genesis 1:26–27 announces that human beings are made in the image of God: “Then God said ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth.’ And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Our worth is connected to our Creator. If God is of great and inestimable worth, then human beings made in his image must be of great value, too. …
In Genesis 9:6, God reminds Noah that man is made in God’s image: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” To attack a person is to attack God through his image bearer. Another passage, James 3:9, also reminds us that human beings are made in God’s image: “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.”
These verses remind us that how we treat people is an indication of how we value God.
There are no ordinary people: One of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis appears in his book The Weight of Glory: “There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.”
The people you see every day, even the ones to whom you give little regard, are ones that are going to live forever either under salvation or judgment. Even the most obscure person is not ordinary in God’s eyes. In light of this truth, how do we affirm the dignity of the people around us? …
While the image of God remains after the fall, it is certainly marred and defaced. As we are redeemed, what will we look like when the process is completed? Our individuality as created by God will shine even more brightly, and our gifts will reach their full potential. We will also look like Christ. Romans 8:29 reminds us that we are being “conformed to the image of his Son.” Jesus is the perfect representative of the image of God, and we are being made like him. …
Being made in the image of God provides the basis for our work and vocation. If we are made in the image of God, we share his characteristics. For example, because God is creative, we can be creative in our work, and in fact, are called to such creativity. … Also, knowing the basis for our dignity and worth helps us believe that we have gifts and talents to employ. ... It begins with knowing we are made in the image of God.—Dr. Art Lindsley6
Published on Anchor May 2022. Read by Jon Marc.
3 Mark 12:31.
4 Psalm 139:13–16 ESV.
5 Adapted from a Just1Thing podcast, a Christian character-building resource for young people.