127 Worldwide’s approach to caring for vulnerable communities is rooted in a belief in the imago dei, or the image of God that every person possesses. Watch this video by the Bible Project for their explanation of what the Bible says about being made in the likeness of God.
The end of this video paints a picture of people thriving and ruling over creation as restored image-bearers of God. This picture is 127’s vision too. We believe that vulnerable communities can flourish because a function of being made in the likeness of God is that human beings are contributors. They can cultivate creation and produce all manner of good as vice-regents under God’s authority. For this reason, we don’t label people suffering from poverty or oppression or the loss of a family member as victims in need of our intervention; they’re human beings with capacity to be creative, generous, and productive. They’re people who might one day rule the earth alongside us as heirs to the kingdom of God.
So 127 seeks to empower vulnerable communities to flourish. And we do this by offering them the skills and resources they need to harness their own God-given potential to meet the physical and spiritual needs around them.
The implications of this approach are vast. When we see people as image-bearers, we can’t limit ourselves to care only for their spiritual needs or their physical needs. They’re complex beings whose flourishing is tied to both. We can’t solve every problem for them as if they don’t also claim responsibility for God’s command to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The imago dei compels us to consider what impact our involvement has on things like privacy, dignity, and agency. Serving human beings as image-bearers means that we honor God by the way we honor his image, and we hope that our involvement shines a spotlight on the imago dei present in every person we encounter.
- How does the imago dei change our behavior towards people in vulnerable communities practically? When we reflect on human beings bearing the likeness of God, what might change about the way we take pictures, think about handouts, or walk through a slum?
- How should we think about the ability of nonbelievers to contribute to human flourishing? How can we practically celebrate the imago dei in all people and at the same time proclaim that God creates a new humanity through Jesus?