Image Bearing Requires Diversity

In Genesis 1 we read,

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Yes, man is in the image of God. Yes, woman is in the image of God. But together as man and woman we more fully represent the image of God, who eternally exists in unity (of nature) and diversity (of persons). Man isn’t enough to fully reflect the image of God. Neither is woman.

What is true of the man and woman is also true of ethnicity/race. Especially after the fall.

The second chapter of Sarah Shin’s ‘Beyond Colorblindness’ helped me understand this in a new way. She emphasizes the beauty of how God created; I would supplement this by suggesting the ugliness of the fall is also shows up differently in various ethnic groups.

In other words, sin has impacted each culture, without exception. Sin twists the image of God in each of us, and in each of our communities. I can better see how sin has impacted my culture by exposing myself to other cultures. And, humanity is revealed in it’s image bearing beauty differently in various cultures. Consequently, I get a better understanding of the image of God, AND OF GOD HIMSELF, by learning from those not like me racially/ethnically.

Just some ‘for examples’:

From my western white culture, I see the value of the individual. Sin warps into a radically, sinful individualism.

But from the Latino community, I learn something valuable about family – something that would help me see and then balance my propensity to sinful individualism. But sin has impacted the Latino family too, so they can learn from other groups in ways that might reveals sinful tendencies they were blind to and lead to a healthier understanding of the image of God.

From the Asian community, I can learn a lot about hospitality and the importance of honoring the other. But in this community, individual voices can quickly be lost, so they can learn from me too.

From my black friends and their community, we can learn a lot about patience, endurance, and engaging with suffering. Shin writes, “from my black churched friends that I started to hear a different way of engaging with suffering. The black church in America rose out of the legacy of slavery, but instead of accepting sorrow and injustice, a different refrain came out of the people: Jesus is coming, and in his kingdom, suffering will one day end. In the black community, there is a willingness to acknowledge suffering but also a prayerful and prophetic refusal to believe that this is the way it will always be.”

These examples could be multiplied endlessly. The point is, sin has touched us all and touched all our communities. But this sin manifests itself differently. So, in multi-racial, multi-ethnic fellowship we can see the sins we may be culturally blind to. And, even better, we get a better glimpse of God reflected in the diversity of his image bearing sons and daughters.