When my grandfather was a prisoner-of-war, he was witness to incredible cruelty on the part of the captors. Since the prisoners were viewed as not being human, the captors felt free to treat them in anyway they wished. According to the captors, the prisoners were inferior creatures.
People being judged as inferior beings, is something that I have come across frequently when helping women. Sometimes husbands have told them that they are inferior simply because they are women. Children have been treated as inferior to their parents only because they are younger. Local people in a given town can treat people from other countries and cultures as inferior because they are different. Old people can suffer in this way as they are seen to be a burden to the economy. Disabled people are seen as lesser beings because they do not function as other people do. It is even questioned whether the old, the disabled, and the sick should continue to live because their existence is not like that of other people.
In each instance, the stronger group treats the weaker group in a bad way because they consider themselves to be better. But what does it mean to be human? Is there a difference in levels of humanness?
In Genesis 1:26-31, we read that God made the male and the female in his image. Both are equally his image-bearers. When Adam saw Eve in Genesis 2:23, he exclaimed that she was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." In this way he recognized their similarity. If she was inferior to him, as the animals were, he would not see his similarity and likeness in Eve.
In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul speaks about the difference between the male and the female. In this passage we read “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” In this verse, Paul did not teach that the woman is the image of man, nor that the woman is not the image of God. Paul gives two reasons why the woman is the man’s glory. The first reason is that she came from the man. Paul is referring back to Genesis 2:22, where we read that God created the woman from the man. The second reason is because she was created for the man. We know from Genesis 2 that she was created for the man to be his helper. Although men and women are different to each other, as seen in this passage, they are both made in the image of God and equal in worth as human beings and as Christians.
Our nature as being made in the image of God is continued after the fall. In Genesis 9:6, we read that God made people in his image and in James 3:9, we are warned about cursing people who are made in his image.
Relating in Dignity
We have discovered that, according to God's design, all people are made in God's image. This means that all people are of equal worth in his sight. This affects how we view other people. No matter a person's age, gender, health, or race, all have equal worth and dignity since all are human beings who are made in God's image.
Since what we think influences how we live and act, by seeing all people in this way, it will influence how we treat others. It is a call to treat all with dignity and respect. It is a call to reflect the character of God toward all people we relate to.