Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? These are the fundamental questions that define our identity and our relationships with others. The answers to these questions determine our value and behavior regardless of whether we know them. Human beings often try to find value and meaning in external things, whether they are professional achievements, money or property, or influence over others. The search for significance becomes a never-ending adventure for most people.
However, our value and dignity are not found in external situations but in our identity as human beings created in the image and likeness of God (Gn. 1:27). All of us, regardless of our gender, ethnic background, or social background, have the same value. This reality should permeate our relationships and always affirm our intrinsic importance. It is easy for us to forget who we are and the value of others. We all need to be constantly reminded of our essential values and the value of our fellow human beings.
Recently I had the pleasure of leading a class of doctoral students from different parts of the world. I usually have many international students, but on this occasion, there were eight people in the classroom, each from a different country. A central theme of the class was to discuss the importance of our Christian worldview and its relationship to educational and ministerial practice. In addition to the typical textbooks for such a subject, we read four books that reinforced the importance of our true common identity as human beings created in the image of God. After reading their books, we had the enormous privilege of interacting with the authors. It was a transformative experience for all of us, and I would like to share briefly how these authors help us better understand our identity as sons and daughters of God created in the image of the triune God.
My colleague Carmen Joy Imes highlights that our identity as human beings is centered on being God’s image in her book Being God’s Image: Why Creation Still Matters. The image of God in human beings “is” our identity and does not relate to our functions or capacities. Thus, the image of God is not lost or distorted by sin or any other circumstance. Our value and dignity are expressed in our relationships with God, with the creation, and with our fellow human beings. This book is forthcoming, but I am convinced that it will be influential in laying the biblical foundation for the importance of the image of God in all spheres of human behavior.
Renowned psychologist and counselor Diane Langberg has dedicated her professional life to studying abuse and trauma worldwide. Her most recent book, Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church, is, in my opinion, a must-read for all of us, especially those in any leadership situation. Langberg reminds us that power is inherent in humans and can be used for good or ill. To be human is to have a voice. The abuse of power robs others of the voice and expression that emanates from our identity as beings in the image of God. To be human is to be in a relationship with others. Abuse of power shatters our relationships and profoundly impacts our relationship with God and others. To be human is to have power and the ability to shape the world as God’s stewards. Abuse of power robs others of their power and inhibits their ability and purpose to act according to God’s plan in their lives.
Theologian Daniel D. Lee identifies our cultural identity’s role in our relationship with God and others. In his book, Doing Asian American Theology: A Contextual Framework for Faith and Practice, Lee proposes the AAQ quadrilateral to explain the Asian American experience that includes Asian heritage, migration experience, American culture, and racialization. Although Lee focuses on Asian Americans, his book emphasizes that our ethnic and cultural backgrounds are essential to our union with Christ, who relates to us without setting aside who we are or where we come from.
Writer Aimee Byrd offers a timely and necessary exhortation to recover the dignity and personhood of men and women through the eschatological imagination of the Church as the bride of Christ. In her book The Sexual Reformation: Restoring the Dignity and Personhood of Man and Woman, Byrd focuses on the biblical book “The Song of Songs” to help Christians better understand our sexuality as a gift from God. Our bodies are valuable, and our gender goes far beyond our roles or activities.
Reading these crucial books, interacting with the authors, and discussing them with Christian leaders worldwide have greatly enriched me. Our identity as human beings created in the image of God firmly establishes our worth and dignity. This profound and theological reality becomes practical when we live with and learn from others. The answer to the question “Who am I?” is always linked to the question “Who are we? Together, men and women from all over the world, we represent God, and we need each other. I invite you to join me in valuing and defending the dignity of all people at all times and in all circumstances.
Nota: Puede encontrar la versión en español aquí: