Welcome the Children
By Cindy Wang Brandt
Day 1 of 3: Honoring the Image of God in Every Child
Every child is made in the image of God. Every child.
The Bible starts in Genesis with an account of humanity created in the image of God. Unfortunately, the phrase “male and female God created them” has been distorted to abuse children who are gender non-conforming while the deeper theological meaning is missed. God bestowed the act of creation to humans, so that as they procreate, from the very first generation of children, each bear the image of God. When Eve gave birth, she said, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man” (Gen. 4:1, NIV). God transfers the act of creation to humans, who bear children in the likeness of God.
We cannot underestimate the radical, subversive nature of such a statement in an ancient culture where children were given such little status. A child is awarded the same value as adults. They do not grow into the image of God, but already bear it. Like Horton, the whimsical elephant in Dr. Seuss’s popular children’s book says, “A person is a person, no matter how small.” Each child is infused with the dignity of their inherent humanity, because they are image bearers of Creator God.
What does it mean, specifically, for a child to be made in the image of God? Besides the implication that we must hold them in high regard and value, the two divine attributes that are prescribed in child image bearers are the ability to create and the ingrained desire for connection.
From the moment a baby emerges from their mother’s womb, their cries, gestures, and unspoken desires for bonding is apparent. Just as God who creates speaks relationally (“let us make…”), image bearers of God are wired for relationships. And given plenty of attention and love, a child’s imagination flourishes, bearing witness to the creativity that flows from being the image of God.
As adults who hold the sacred duty of stewarding the development of children in our families and communities, it must be of the highest priority to provide children access to relationships and creativity. To truly honor the image of God in our children is to be in mutual relationship with them creating in the world.
To give access to every child means we must actively dismantle the barriers to their flourishing.
For the little girls, we smash patriarchy.
For children of color, we dismantle white supremacy.
For queer children, we resist hate.
For poor children, we fight for economic justice.
For children of another land, we advocate for hospitality.
For children ravaged by war, we march for peace, prosperity, and equality.
There is no such thing as other people’s children, and the image of God within us requires us to honor the image of God in every child.
And when we include them in the act of meaning-making and liberate them to live into their unique identities, they are then free to create, solve problems, and give generously to our world.