Bearing With Me

By: Jeff Horner

“Let us make man[kind] in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”

(Genesis 1:26a, 27)

God created humans in His image, thereby distinguishing humanity from all other parts of creation because people are made in God’s image and likeness.

Dr. Peter Gentry examines various understandings of this passage in his article linked here. His interpretation highly influences how I think about this topic. He argues that “image-bearing” is akin to the role of ambassador or setting up a statue in a conquered land to let people in the ancient world know who their new rulers were. Consequently, everywhere that humanity exists is a declaration of God’s sovereign rule. In light of this, I must assert every person who exists on earth has dignity and value because each person represents a declaration of God’s authority over any space they inhabit. No one is worthless. In that light, let us consider a few applications of Dr. Gentry’s insights to the world of schools. This is by no means intended to be comprehensive, but rather represent a few suggestions as to where people more capable than I could apply his insights.


First, school leaders – as fellow image-bearers – must approach the work set before us with humility. Research published in the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians promotes the need for humility in leaders. We are no better (in an eternal sense) than those we lead, among whom we co-labor, or those with whom we partner. In Philippians 2:3, Paul commends humility to fellow Christians saying, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more significant than yourselves.”  Humility emerges most easily when we begin from the understanding that everyone with whom we interact is of eternal value to God and his servants. Our school families, our faculty, our students, collectively are all God’s image-bearers. Keeping that mindset in challenging circumstances provides a pathway out of potentially harmful decisions. Based on the links provided earlier in this section, humility seems to be one of the most elusive virtues to cultivate and most essential to have. In view of this, I find myself revisiting the words of CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”  In everything, school leaders are stewards of the work we do on behalf of other image bearers to bring glory to God through the field of education.


The front-line workers in the field of education are the faculty and staff. Several recent studies have  identified a widespread problem of teacher burnout. Whether due to the daily grind of lesson planning, grading, classroom management, paperwork requirements, feeling distrusted, or the combination of all of these items, faculty and staff are desperately in need of encouragement. Yes, students are image bearers. Yes, parents are image bearers. But importantly, faculty are also image-bearers. Their image-bearing status is equally important in our discussion. Returning to Genesis 1, God’s creation of humanity includes people being made in God’s image and likeness. According to Peter Gentry, the term “image” refers to humanity standing before one another as representatives of God “likeness” references humanity standing before God as his heirs. Faculty are therefore simultaneously ambassadors and heirs, representing God to the students, interceding on behalf of their students before the throne of God, but also themselves recipients of the fullness of God’s blessings. In view of faculty’s burnout and their critical role in the educational process, it is vital that school leaders bring life-giving encouragement to people whose daily work has the potential to grind them down. Each person receives encouragement in different ways. Therefore,  knowing your faculty and staff, being acquainted with their lives, interceding on their behalf – all factors of living in community –reflect a purposeful interaction from image-bearer among other image-bearers.


It seems that one primary need for our students is a clear identity. Two serious concerns keep popping up in conversations with teachers and other school leaders: a) Students’ social-emotional health b) Students’ source of self-worth. Stories continue to appear in various forms of media regarding the mental health crisis appearing in students from primary through secondary grades and on into tertiary education. While this may seem reductionistic, and it is not intended to be applicable in all cases, I do wonder if students are truly learning that they have value simply because they are here. They do not need to earn favor through some list of accomplishments; they are valuable because they are.

Students’ mental health is undoubtedly connected in part to the ongoing messages they have received for a long time about their value emerging from a comparison to others. While social media has certainly exacerbated this existing tendency, I would posit a much simpler source of stress: grades. Efforts to rank students to prepare them for college admissions and a host of other life situations raise an endless striving for distinction in some way or another. Perhaps a consistent message throughout their school life, mirrored at home, of intrinsic value regardless of any one’s applied metrics or opinions, could begin to alleviate this ceaseless pressure.


Interwoven with the needs of students are the needs of their families. The best schools function as partnerships with families. One great need for all families is a healthy community. In a post-COVID world, where increasing numbers of people are permanently working from home, reports of increased loneliness are cause for concern. Image bearers need to be in community with other image bearers. As a parent myself, I understand the fears for the future of my children, their potential careers, their spouses, and what sort of preparation I am providing for them. In many cases, knowing that others are walking through the same stages, or hearing from those who are a step or two further down the road can be intensely reassuring. Genesis 2 reveals God’s plan for humanity to live in community when the first negative statement about the creation comes from God’s own mouth – “It is not good for man to live alone.” Even before the entrance of sin into the world, we see something described by God Himself as “not good”. Based on this, it seems appropriate for schools to facilitate opportunities for building community among families in pursuit of that designed partnership.


 As we embark into this new semester, we are going into the world as one image-bearer among many image-bearers. In Galatians 6:2-3, Paul calls believers to “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” As school leaders, we must seek to grow in humility as we serve our families through building community, our students through teaching them their true source of worth, and our faculty and staff through encouraging them. We are stewards of many people, and we are called to serve other image-bearers that they might see the One whose image we bear.

One thought on “Bearing With Me

  1. I enjoyed reading your article and the points you made are spot on. Thank you for what you said and the questions it then can raise in our minds as educators/colleagues/parents/families.

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