What is the Christian concept of the imago dei?
Imago dei or ‘the image of God’ is “the Christian understanding of human beings as created in the image of God bestows dignity and honor on every person, regardless of social, mental or physical status” (Shelly & Miller, 2006). Imago dei (image of God) is a theological term that applies only to humans and has its roots in the biblical book of Genesis. Imago dei doesn’t mean that we reflect God’s image in the literal sense, but in His moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature (pbs.org, n.d.).
“It was the imago dei that drove Mother Teresa to care for the sick and dying in Calcutta, as it has motivated Christians throughout the centuries to care for the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised” (Shelly & Miller, 2006). Knowing that another human being is created in the image of God is one aspect that drives health care workers to want to care for a sick human being and give the dying a peaceful and comforting death. In an article titled The Religious Foundations of Health Care, the author states, “it remains true that for the care giver (physician, nurse, social worker, psychologist or whatever) the other (the patient, the client) no longer remains simply a fellow human being in distress but also a likeness of the eternal God” (Sevensky, 1983). Sevensky goes on to state that this awareness transforms the relationship between health care worker and patient into recognition of the sanctity of the other (Sevensky, 1983). The term imago dei is relevant because “it forms the basis of Western society’s understanding of human rights and undergirds our legal system as well as our health care and social service agencies” (Shelly & Miller, 2006).
Sevensky, R. L. (1983). The Religious Foundations of Health Care: A Conceptual Approach. Journal of Medical Ethics, 165-169. Retrieved January 12, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1059326/pdf/jmedeth00010-0037.pdf.
Shelly, J. A., & Miller, A. B. (2006). Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing (Second ed.). Retrieved January 12, 2017, from https://viewer.gcu.edu/UGPTQ4