When I was a little girl, I loved it when someone commented, “You are the spitting image of your dad.” (Or mom, or sister). I loved being identified with the people I held dear. I felt like it confirmed I belonged undisputedly to our family.

I still like it when I’m with one of my family members and people recognize the similarities – but I like it even more when someone thinks I resemble my Father in heaven. I enjoy the confirmation that I am made (and being re-made) in his image.

Have you ever thought about what it really means to be “made in the image of God”?

We were made in God’s image. We bear his likeness.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

Think about that a minute – in the image of the Father/Son/Holy Spirit.

What does that even mean?  Sometimes the wonder of it is just too much for my little head to take in, so I have to break it down into parts.

One part of it is we were made for relationships.  Father/Son/Holy Spirit enjoy a sweet communion of unbroken fellowship.  Part of the image of God in me – part of the image of God in you – is how we reflect this divine relationship.  And I think reflecting and enjoying this divine relationship is precisely why we were created. When we relate to others in a way that they experience the character and nature of God, we give him glory.

Women, in particular, were created because it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18-25).  Women were created because men were created for relationships and naming the animals exposed the fact that there was no suitable partner for them. We were all created for relationships with other people.  (Read more about this in my blog post Relationship-ers.)

But we only reflect the image of God when we do relationships the way God designed relationships to be done. Put another way, we obscure the image of God, we distort it and deface it, when we do relationships differently than his design.

When we interact in faithfulness, remembering who God is and what He has done for us, we show his mercy to a watching world. When we recognize our limitations and diligently strive to submit our will to the Father, we show his truth to a watching world. When we extend compassion and touch the lives of the untouchables, when we serve others instead of ourselves because of Christ, we show grace to a watching world.

Our relationships are the key to presenting a clear image of who God is to a watching world.

Scripture says as much.  John 13:35 tells us others will know we follow Him if we love one another. Truly love one another – not just display some sentimental affection or camaraderie or feeling of good will (which is hard to sustain as we bump into each other along the way). No, we show who Christ is to us as we forgive each other, as we remove the log from our own eye, as we overlook offenses – preferring to be wronged than to claim our rights – as we gently seek to restore others to Christ, as we walk in humility of understanding the ground at the cross is very level and we all stand in the place of “sinner.” We bear the indisputable resemblance to Christ when we choose to love – not necessarily feel love – but choose to actively love others despite the personal cost.

Being human, being made in God’s image, being made for relationships to bring glory to God, is, in the words of C. S. Lewis in his book Prince Caspian, “both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”

There’s something beautiful about that image – of a beggar having his head lifted. It echoes the truth of Psalm 3:2-3,

[M]any are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

Relationships are one of the ways God lifts our heads. Relationship with him, first and foremost, lifts our heads from the shame with which we have clothed ourselves and dresses us with redemption, with his robes of righteousness.

But may I dare to propose that relationships with others also lift our heads as we reflect the image of God in us.

It is in right relationships with others that we train our hearts in righteousness that will be our crown in glory. It is in right relationships with others we fully express the image of God in us. It is his image in us that gives us value, that though we be beggars, completely incapable of providing for our own needs, we are yet children bearing the image of our father who has come to take us out of our poverty into his riches and blessings. And one of his greatest blessings is rich relationships.

As we submit even our relationships to his will, we will grow more like him. In submitting our relationships to him, we will learn to submit to one another, to see the image of God behind the smudges of sin, and to walk by his Spirit. As we learn to live in relationships according to his instructions, we bear his likeness. It confirms we belong to his family.

So I have to ask myself: Do my relationships make me look like my Father?