WHAT MAKES HUMANS SPECIAL?
When God created our world, he created the birds, fish, and animals and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21, 25). However, when God created man, he “created man in his own image.” Humans are the only living creatures that God created “in his image” (Genesis 1:26 – 27). This alone makes humans unique and special among the animal kingdom. In addition, God also gave to humans the responsibility of “ruling over” the other living creatures he had made (Genesis 1:26, 28). These two things show that God created humans to be special among all his creation. Biologically, Homo sapiens are part of the animal kingdom, but God has set humans apart with the gift of “his image” within and a special responsibility without.
What then does it mean to be “created in God’s image”? It is certainly NOT a physical image, or we would all look alike! Humans alone are created in God's spiritual image with an eternal soul that lives after our physical body dies and gives us part of God's spiritual makeup. First Corinthians 15 talks about the resurrection of the dead. Our physical body is “sown perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (verses 42 – 44).
God's spiritual image, his soul within us, reflects parts of God's divine nature as referred to in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made … .” What are these divine qualities that are “clearly seen” in what he has made? First and foremost is God's love. The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He created humans with the need to be loved and the capacity to give love, even sacrificial love, which God and Jesus showed us on the cross. God's other divine qualities such as compassion, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, creativity, artistry, beauty, and diversity in design and function are “clearly seen” in God's creation and his interactions with humankind.
By creating us “in his image,” God has given these divine qualities to humans; although, because we are imperfect, we do not reflect them perfectly as God and Jesus do. But, humans can appreciate and mimic God's beauty and diversity of design in his creation with our artistry and creativity. And we can reflect, in our nobler selves, God's sacrificial love, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness.
— Cynthia Clayton