How does the reality of the image of God in mankind effect my view of other people? I know that as I read in Genesis 9.6 God imposed capital punishment upon those who committed murder. This was not done so much to comfort the grieving family as it was to vinidicate the insulted Creator, who’s very image had been insulted through the cold blooded selfish disregard.
Conversely, how does the fact that all people, whether believer or unbeliever, are created in the image of God, effect my relations with them? The image of God, perverted and distorted as it was in Genesis 9 is still valuable to God and so therefore should be to me as well.
The very fact that every human being is created in the image of God must motivate me to treat them with kindness and love. John Calvin put this quite well in The Institutes:
We are not to consider that men merit of themselves but to look upon the image of God in all men, to which we owe all honor and love….Therefore, whatever man you meet who needs your aid, you have no reason to refuse him….Say, ‘he is contemptible and worthless’; but the Lord shows him to be one to whom he as deigned to give the beauty of his image. Say that he des not deserve even your least effort for his sake; but the image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions.
The worldview and ability to do such things are really at the heart of the Christian message. The Christian, having a fallen, diseased, marred, perverted, retarded, etc… image is progressively being renewed into the image of God, even through conformity to Jesus (Rom. 8.29; Eph. 4.24).
So we are able to love our enemies because now we can rightly love God. Our love to our fellow image bearers, whether the image is being renewed or insulted, is primarily love towards the God who’s image we bear and who’s glory we value.