Infants and the Image of God

I have been thinking a lot about this baby girl and the things God would teach me through her as I meditate on Scripture. Most recently I have been contemplating what we can learn about the image of God from an infant like Adele. The image of God is something that uniquely belongs to human beings (Gen 1:26-28). It sets us apart as distinct from all other creation and gives us inherent value. We bear the mark of our Creator in our nature, relationships, and tasks. The image of God is an all-encompassing category. Everything we are and everything we do is related to being created in the image of God.

So what can we learn about the image of God from an infant? First, the image of God is not something we attain to or grow into but something that is essential to our being from birth. There are no degrees of the image of God in people. Infants and adults alike are image-bearers. In the eyes of God my daughter and I stand on equal footing. It follows that the way I view, talk about, and interact with my daughter must be informed by this truth.

Second, the image of God in my daughter is manifest primarily in being at this point in her little life. She doesn’t do a whole lot right now—she just is. This is an important lesson. The image of God is not all about function and task although it includes this—we do indeed mirror God as we do many different things. Adele does very little in a day and yet her very existence is speaking to the world about God. She is his image-bearer and she is imaging, mirroring, and reflecting him by simply existing. Just as we learn something about the creativity of God from an artist made in his image so we learn some incredible things about him by observing an infant in his image doing nothing.

Third, following from the second point, what kind of things do we learn about God from these tiny little image-bearers? Saint Augustine once said that God is “younger than all.” If children bear the image of God it follows then that God is youthful by nature. G.K. Chesterton captures something profound in this vein. “A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” I have much to learn from this living mirror of my Creator. Give me eyes to see.

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