– Alister McGrath
With a Free Moral Conscience
What can be plainly known to humans, both the saved and the unsaved, is God’s invisible attributes (Rom. 1:20). There is enough revelation in nature–called general revelation–that we are without excuse. When people resist this knowledge of God and continue to sin, He gives them up to their own lusts (Rom. 1:24). Over time, their conscience becomes seared as with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2) where sin doesn’t bother them anymore. Even as bad and corrupted by sin we might become, there is still buried within each of us the image of God.
As a Free Moral Agent
When God created mankind and placed them in the Garden of Eden, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Again, it was written, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Gen. 1:27), so it must have been important to God because He repeated this fact in the first chapter of Genesis. No matter what a person looks like on the outside, no matter what we think of them, we must look at them as being made in the image of God. If we did this, we would treat everyone differently. God is free to choose and do what He pleases, and God created mankind with freedom to choose between “life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deut. 30:19).
As a Lawgiver
If you read Romans 13, you can see that this chapter shows that God and mankind both have attributes of justice. We are to “be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience” (Rom. 13:5), for those in authority (Rom. 13:3) are “God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom. 13:4). Even Jesus knew that paying taxes was necessary. Even though He is God, He still made sure to pay what He owed (Matt. 17:27), which is what the 13th chapter of Romans affirms: “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7).
No one can be said to have no image of God within them at all. Their sins might be so grievous that it might be hard to see, but within each one of us exists the image of God. No matter how disfigured and corrupted by sin it may presently be, it is still there.