November 05, 2019
“Tell me something about yourself.” This is perhaps one of the toughest questions to answer.
Whenever we encounter this question, we struggle to find the words to describe who we are. Our default answers are usually our name, school, course, talents, or favorites like food, color, sports, books, and so on. When we look deeply, we see that our answers reveal how much we know ourselves.
One’s idea of oneself, which cognitive psychologists call self-concept, is influenced by several factors such as life experiences, abilities, qualities, self-perception, or people’s perception about the person. It is the sum of all beliefs about one’s worth, values, qualities, and behavior. For instance, I can say:
“I am good at writing, therefore I am ____________.”
“I am used to being left alone by people I love. I think I am not worth ___________.”
Our self-concept affects our outlook in life and it ultimately manifests in how we carry and express ourselves.
People with a positive self-concept have high self-esteem and express themselves in a positive way. On the other hand, people with an unhealthy self-concept are likely to resort to self-sabotaging behaviors under the guise of self-expression.
The problem is if we base our identity only on external things such as our abilities and preferences, we’ll end up with a shallow understanding of ourselves. If our identity is based on people’s perception, our natural course of action will be people-pleasing and adjusting to others’ preferences. And if our knowledge of ourselves is based on shifting factors such as life experiences and status, we will never have a solid identity.
What then is our solid basis for understanding our humanity?
Thankfully, God has clearly defined it for us and we only need to see things through His perspective to know who we are and what we were created to be.
Genesis 1 tells us that we were created by God. As the Creator of everything, He alone has the right to define the identity and purpose of His created beings.
But the narrative in Genesis 1 tells us more than just the chronological account of how creation came to be. If we’re meticulous about the details and read between the lines, we will see that there is so much more to this story.
In the beginning, the earth was void and formless until God spoke and called things into being—light and darkness, water and land, sun and moon, planets and stars, and plants and animals.
In Genesis 1:24, God created living creatures “according to their kinds.” We know this is taxonomy, where all plants, insects, and animals are grouped according to their respective kingdoms, classes, and so on.
But in Genesis 1:26, God broke the pattern. He created man not according to any other kind, but according to His own image and likeness. We were created to bear the image of God—imago Dei. This truth is our anchor for these four important things:
Human beings were created by design, not by accident. A divine Creator carefully and wonderfully crafted us. And, as our Creator, God has the sole authority to define who we are. It’s really not up to us to define our identity, for God has clearly defined it right at the onset.
Also, no one has the right to put a wrong label on us—including ourselves. So let us not label ourselves with temporary failures or accomplishments, and we should not accept how people label us based on our looks, qualities, or mistakes.
While self-concept is constantly shifting, our identity as God’s image-bearers is solid. This is the truth: We are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).
The image of God in mankind seals the sanctity of human life (Genesis 9:6). Because we bear the image of God, our intrinsic worth and dignity are eternally secure.
The imago Dei in man is the basis of all human laws and ethics. This is why all crimes against humanity are punishable by law, because human life is valuable. Because every single life matters, we must do our best to uplift people’s dignity, help the poor, protect human rights, and empower dreams. Doing so gives glory to God, whose image and likeness are reflected in us.
When we know that we are inherently valuable because God created us according after His own image, we will have a healthy view of ourselves. But when we base our worth on our abilities, status, or how people treat us, we could end up feeling empty or depressed.
We all have an innate longing to live a purposeful life. This is because God created us with a purpose in mind. According to Genesis 1:27, God gave us dominion and authority over every living creature. We are stewards of God’s creation. We are to also multiply and fill the earth with His glory. What God initiates, we are to cultivate and sustain.
Life is not about being who we want to be and doing what we want to do. It’s about being who God intended us to be and doing the work He has called us to do.
An overwhelming message that we often hear today encourages us to embrace a more individualistic lifestyle, to live our lives the way we want, do things by ourselves and for ourselves alone, and to focus on what makes us happy.
But this kind of life is headed towards isolation and loneliness, because we were designed not to be independent from one another but to be connected to life-giving relationships.
Being created in God’s image means that we are created for relationships, just as God—the Father, Son, and Spirit—is a relationship within Himself. God’s image in us is reflected in our relationship with Him and with others. The likeness of God in man is not just seen in our ability to create and rule, but in our ability to use our skills and talents for the benefit of our community and relate to others as well.
Sin has distorted our humanity and the image of God in us. The enemy has destroyed our understanding of our identity and worth. If it’s up to us to define who and what we are, we will only arrive at a faulty and limited understanding of our identity, self-worth, purpose, and our key relationships.
This is why Jesus came to redeem humanity. When He sacrificed His sinless life on the cross in our place, He restored our fallen condition. His sacrificial death paved a way for us to be redeemed. His resurrection grants us power to live according to God’s will and purpose.
This is good news! Because you bear God’s image, your life matters! You’re made to reflect God’s beauty, wisdom, creativity, and glory! And because you are a masterpiece, you have been gifted with unique abilities to make an impact in the world. Embracing God’s design for our identity actually gives us real freedom to live a truly meaningful life.
This is only possible when we look to Jesus, the perfect man, to help us live the life that God meant for us. It is only by His grace that we can be more like Him every day.