The doctrine of humans being created in the image and likeness of God is part of the foundation for Christianity’s high view of human sanctity. This concept has undoubtedly influenced western society for 1,000+ years.
The biblical concept of humans being created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27) has profound implications. Not only do human beings have a remarkable inherent value and worth, but they are able to do things that emulate God (i.e. have “dominion” over creation).
The idea of humans being created in the image of God also impacts how they deserve to be treated (i.e. basic human rights). God, when discussing the early penalty for murdering someone, cited the fact that humans were made in His image to prove that murder ought to have serious consequences (Gen. 9:6). Do we really want to maim, harm, or destroy the image and likeness of God?
The sane among us (even those who do not believe in humans being made in the image of God) agree that it’s not good to do harm to other people. The Christian ethic goes a step beyond. Don’t just not be bad to people, be good to people.
Christians have all the reason in the world to be good to other people. Not only do they affirm that humans were made in the image of God, but they follow the One who gave us such commands as “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Mt. 7:12), “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:39), “love your enemies” (Lk. 6:27), and “love one another” (Jn. 13:34).
In my experience, though Christians can struggle with these principles and often drop the ball, we do a decent job overall being good to people. There is however one glaring exemption to this rule: online interaction.
Thus, we have the point being made in the title of this post. Somebody is still made in the image of God when they’re sitting behind a keyboard. It seems the partial anonymity and non-physical aspects of social media and instant messaging has convinced some that they don’t need to be good to people. That is after all what those avatars on our screens represent–people. Not bots, or algorithms, or unconscious entities. But people. Real, moving, and breathing people.
People with the same needs, wants, desires, and expectations as you. People who are going through hard times and are struggling to enjoy life. People who have already been insulted today by a Christian. People who need Christ and an encouraging word. People who bear the image and likeness of God. People for whom Christ died.
Yes, we can be good to people even online. If only we can remember that behind the keyboard sits a person. A person not entirely unlike us. And though they may disagree with us politically or philosophically, or whatever, they have value and worth. They’re worthy of love.