I believe that in the system and order of life, on this planet at least, God created the human species with a very specific purpose in mind. That purpose was to fill the specific role that is alternatively described in the Bible as steward or priest with humanity serving as a go-between between God and creation. To effectively fulfill that purpose humanity was therefore designed to “bear God’s image”.  So to equip us for our prescribed role God created us “in His image.” (Genesis 1)  

A few definitions might be helpful here so we are all on the same page. When I say Steward I mean we were created to be caretakers of someone else’s property. We are not the owners, but we work for the owners overseeing and managing their possessions to accomplish their desired outcomes. 

When I say Priest I mean, and I think I got this image from NT Wright, that our role is to reflect the glory of God to all of creation and to reflect the praise of creation back to God. A Priest leverages their special relationship with God to seek God’s will for creation and then carries the creation’s needs, praises, and gratitudes back to God.

When I say go between it’s related to how the Steward and Priest function. In this context I mean someone who stands between God and creation. We have a unique position of going between God and creation to care for creation on God’s behalf.  We are to utilize our unique relationship with God to know how to carry out his will for creation and we are tasked with choosing to obediently carry out God’s will in creation.

The unique and actually brilliant way God designed us to accomplish these tasks is to bear the image of God in our very makeup and identity.  

Let me see if I can illustrate my understanding of what it means to be an image bearer. 

In 2003, at the age of 45, I was asked to officiate at my Aunt Grace’s funeral in Pittsburgh. Aunt Grace was my Dad’s older sister who I felt especially close to. I used to spend time at her house almost every summer growing up. I knew she had a special place in her heart for me and I always thought she was just the best. As I was waiting in the lobby before the service I was approached by two older gentlemen I did not recognize. They said: “We don’t know who you are but we know you are a Carson. You are the spitting image of our Uncle Bill. It’s uncanny how much you look like how we remember him.” Those men turned out to be Murray and Jackie, my Dad’s 2nd cousins. They all grew up together in the same neighborhood. Their Uncle Bill was my paternal grandfather who died of a heart attack at the age of 49 when my Dad was 10. Apparently, I bear my grandfather’s image. 

I also bear my Father’s image. I definitely have his nose, his hairline and I am told I have his laugh. My older sister once commented that hearing me laugh from the other room will remind her of our deceased Father so strongly as to occasionally bring tears to her eyes. My wife thinks I also have his mischievous eyes. She will see certain expressions on my face and say: “That is a pure Joe Carson look.” I bear the image of my Father in many ways. 

Just as important as the physical features are the ways I internally bear the image of my family. From the moment I was born, I was a Carson. The third son and fourth surviving child of Joseph Patrick and Patricia Ann Carson. Through the mentoring of my family, I was intentionally indoctrinated into the important things it means to be a Carson. I came to know who our family was and how we related to the world. I was taught through experience who our people were and who our people weren’t. I was taught for example that Carson’s open their Christmas gifts on Christmas morning and that those who open them earlier are either pagans or barbarians. I was taught one of the love languages of the Carson clan was sarcasm. If you want to stay in the game in the Carson family you better have a thick skin, be able to give as good as you get, and keep up. I was taught that Carsons’ work hard, play hard, love hard, and don’t ever, ever, ever give up. In so many ways I was taught and trained to be what I already was. I was and am a Carson in all the complicated fullness contained therein. Some of the imprints of being a Carson on me were very positive. Our strong work ethic or intense loyalty comes to mind. Some of the imprints of being a Carson were negative. Carrying the family shame comes to mind.  

So when I think of image bearing I think of all the complicated ways externally and maybe more significantly internally that I am a Carson. I reflect the image of what it means to be a Carson to the world in my own unique way. 

In the same way I learned to be a Carson from my family, I think of apprenticing with Jesus as being a similar process where Jesus is at work in us training us internally and externally to be what we already are. God’s children. We bear the family image in our own unique way.


Yours in the Journey. . .Pastor Tim