We talk a lot about being made in the image of God, but what does that mean? And, how should it affect how I live my life? These are big questions with pretty big answers; thankfully, we have people like C.S. Lewis to help us navigate these questions. First, we’ll talk about what Scripture tells us about the image of God and then we’ll dive into C.S. Lewis’ reflections.
We are explicitly taught in the Creation story in Genesis that we are made in the image of God.
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
-Genesis 1:27 NRSV
We are reminded throughout Scripture how to treat one another as image bearers of God through the Law in the Old Testament and in Jesus’ interactions in the New Testament. Jesus interacted with people who others would never have been seen with socially–the woman at the well in John 4 and Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19. He also interacted with people he should have avoided or seen as enemies like Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish council, in John 3.
C.S. Lewis beautifully explains the importance of the people around us and how we should interact with them:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.
We must play.
But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
—The Weight of Glory (HarperOne, 2001), pp. 45-46.
- Why does it matter that you are created in the image of God and bear that image now?
- Why does it matter that others also are created in image of God?
- Why does C.S. Lewis argue that there are no ordinary people?
In light of what you have read about how God desires you to view yourself and others, think through these questions.
- How should you carry yourself?
- How should you treat the people around you?
- How can this knowledge help you navigate your daily life?
I read The Weight of Glory for the first time in a class in college and I remember being blown away when thinking through what Lewis was explaining. There is no one, not a single person, that does not carry the image of God, which means, every single person has potential for glory. My hope is that this will be something we all consider as we walk through life together at Baylor.
Kathleen Post is the Ministry Associate for Global Missions and a student at Baylor’s Truett Seminary.