The Bible is not only a story about human beings but a story about the whole world – indeed the whole universe! The Bible shows us a God who is deeply concerned for his creation, and not least for his animal creation. Therefore, it is expected that we too follow God in doing good towards what he has made and looking after the other creatures of this world.
Remembering God’s love for his animal creation and their place in his plans strengthens our motivation to be living and acting in ways that do not harm them but instead enable them to flourish. This is so desperately needed today because we are facing unprecedented extinction rates – currently, around one in four mammals is at risk of extinction.
The natural world reflects God and carries his imprint, so we must be careful in our understanding of people being made in the image of God – it does not mean that God cannot be seen in any creature other than humans. Yet, the human being is the species chosen by God to bear his image and be his representative.
The image of God, therefore, is not so much any innate quality within us but more like a job title. Qualities that people have tried to single out as being what constitutes the image of God in us – our ability to reason, to love and form relationships, our creativity and so forth – have been given to us by God, not because we are special but because we need those abilities if we are to carry out well the role that God has assigned to us. We recognize, humbly, that other creatures have those qualities too, but we have been blessed to have been given them in special measure.
As we take on the job of looking after what God has made, we do so remembering that we are indeed part of this wider community. One part of being in this community of creation is that we are not immune to creation’s sufferings. Climate change, species loss, plastic pollution, war and poverty all impact people, other creatures, and ecosystems together.
Today, ask God to give you a new understanding of how he sees this world and of how you can be his image within it.