Humans are the God-breathed image bearers of God. God created us in the same general class of beings as himself, which is why we can relate to him on many levels.
You may have heard religious ideas about how every person born after the fall of humanity was devoid of the image of God in them, was born “utterly depraved”, “born of the devil”, personally repulsive and deeply abominable to God, etc. That’s not only Scripturally inaccurate (if you go beyond superficial prooftexting), but it’s also very conducive to awakening the worst of our instincts relative to other human beings. Such teachings simply attempt to dehumanize fellow humans, to strip the image of God off of them, since that’s the only rhetorical way of gaining imaginary authority to destroy them through slander and violence.
What happened after “the fall” is that humanity acquired a progressively thicker layer of self-reliance followed by blindness followed by sin followed by death – in that order. They departed from the divinely established order by relying on various systems of right and wrong (self-reliance), their worldviews and perspectives got retrained to perceive the world in the terms of “right vs. wrong” and “with us vs. against us” dichotomies (blindness), their skewed perspectives (think spiritual eyesight) caused them to constantly miss the mark in their interactions with other people and with God (sin in “hamartia” in Greek – literally, “missing the mark”), and in continually operating in sin they progressed in death (or entropy – increasing degrees of disorder, culminating in state of disorder – literal and irreversible death).
So humans are still image-bearers of God in the world, it’s just their lights have grown very dim. If it were not so – why would Jesus die such a horrific death for a bunch of essentially worthless creatures? Collectively, we are more than worth the price of the life of the Son of God himself. The cross of Calvary is God’s valuation of our intrinsic eternal potential which now is forever etched into the annals of history.
God’s proposed solution to this dilemma is this: to awaken people to the knowledge of God and his ways (get the plank out of our own eyes), to get to know him and to trust him in lieu of personal and collective self-reliance (love God and trust God with all your soul, mind, heart, strength), to begin to see people and this world as God sees it – and with that beginning to hit bulls-eye (as opposed to missing the target, or sinning) in our personal and interpersonal affairs (love fellow human as yourself). Thereby gravitating out of death, entropy, and disorder toward order, abundance, and beauty (and the gates of hades – a figurative expression for death – shall not withstand before the onslaught of the church).
That Jesus-initiated process that I’ve just described above is what the Scripture refers to a new birth. It’s not immediately popping out of the metaphysical womb as a brand-new creature, after saying a quick prayer. It’s in the seed of God being mixed with the substance of out being, letting it germinate and break up the soil of our hearts, letting the old perspectives and ways of thinking and doing things die, and letting Jesus come out of us in our unique individual expression – that’s the new birth that the Scriptures are talking about. It’s as intimate and personal as it is truly transformative and paradigm-shattering. Only such bona fide metamorphosis can produce the “new creation” which we like singing songs about, so that we can finally stop crawling around in the dirt (often times doing so while “confessing” that we are already butterflies).
Jesus came to show the way into that new way of life, as well as change the metaphysical workings of the universe to provide mechanisms for everyone to tap into where life and order would flow through us into the world, overcoming entropy and disorder. “In him was light, and the darkness couldn’t overtake him”. And this light was the life of humankind.
I often think of what the Gospel means to me, and each time a slightly different facet of the story gets highlighted. This is the facet that came to light today.