Every culture, every religion, every civilization has its own “creation story.” Ever since there have been human beings on the earth, we have wrestled with the fundamental questions of life, struggled to come up with a compelling narrative that will explain adequately to ourselves and our children where the world itself came from and what are the essential principles upon which our world stands.
For the ancient Hebrew civilization, our most sacred text, the Bible, begins with just such a creation story. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” These words have echoed across the millennia of Western Civilization, and have served to teach us that from the very first sentence of our sacred literature we establish that the world in which we live is the result not of an accidental coming together of matter, but of the conscious creative power of the very source of holiness itself.
Someone once commented that the chances of random molecules and atoms banging together in just such a pattern as to result in the creation of the universe and the miracle of human life is about as realistic as assuming that a tornado can whip through a junk yard and result in the creation of a computer.
Having “God” as the creator and cause of our world is simply our ancestor’s way of infusing the entire universe with a sense of divine purpose. It is a challenge to the apparent randomness of life, a bold claim that there is an underlying cohesion, design and sacred plan to the world.
The ancient Jewish sages taught that just as it is impossible to imagine a coat without assuming a weaver or a table without presuming a carpenter, so, too, it is impossible to imagine the earth without assuming a creator – and it is that creative power which we call God.
But this ancient story of creation goes far beyond merely establishing the idea that a “divine force” created the world. More important than the idea that God created the heaven and earth, is why our ancestors believed that God created it in the first place. Indeed, for our civilization, the real story is the underlying commitment to ethical and spiritual values as the raison d’être for God’s creation of human beings that matters most.
In Chapter 1, verse 26-27 we are introduced for the first time to what I believe to be the single most important idea in the entire Bible. “And God said, ‘Let us make the human being in our image, after our likeness…. and God created the human being in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’” That’s it.
Actually, perhaps what is most remarkable about this, one of the oldest passages in the entire Bible going back thousands of years of recorded time, is perhaps as much what it doesn’t say as for what it does. For it doesn’t say “God created the human being in God’s image, except….” There are no exceptions found in the biblical text. All human beings are included in this sweeping statement that the nature of the human species is to be a reflection of God.
In this most difficult of times, when racial profiling continues to threaten individual civil liberties, when it is so easy to allow ourselves to become fearful of others whose skin is darker or religion is different, or language we don’t understand, let us learn the lesson found within these powerful words well. The Bible does not teach that God created human beings in the divine image except Muslims, or Afghans, or Pakistanis, or Iraqis, or blacks, or gays, or women, or people who speak Arabic, or Spanish, or French.
In the most remarkable and life transforming assertion in all of sacred literature, the Bible simply declares that all human beings are created in the image of God. Period. Imagine for a moment what the world would be like, if we truly believed that simple ancient assertion, taught it to our children and passed it on from one generation to the next.
The entire world would be profoundly transformed if we acted as if every human being we encountered reflected godliness within. If we could imagine that every time we gazed at our neighbor, regardless of whom they might be, God was peeking out from within, the transformation in how we would treat each other as a result would transform our entire society.
Perhaps that was the purpose for this lofty ideal in the first place – to set a standard against which we can measure how we consider and treat others, as well as how we look upon ourselves. For after all, how many of society’s problems in our era and every age can trace their roots to the simple lack of individual self-esteem and sense of personal value and worth on the part of so many disaffected, unhappy and angry men and women? I just can’t help but wonder how profoundly different our world might be if every one of those angry, frustrated human beings saw themselves as so worthwhile that even God was willing to create them in God’s own image? I would certainly love to see it.