This reality truly puts humanity upon a pedestal. Not that we put ourselves there, but that we recognize that God put us there. With that comes great responsibility. If we are to respect, honor, and love God, are we not to do likewise for the image and likeness of God? One cannot expose a love for Jesus and diminish, destroy, or deny a picture of Jesus, the beloved.
Surely, this is why Jesus taught about love for God as the first major commandment and love for others as the second. Love for others is completely dependent upon the love for God. We are made in the image and likeness of God, so we are not above God. We are second in this regard and completely dependent upon God for our dignity to go with our existence as well. Love for God should indeed spill into love for His image and likeness. You do not love your spouse, kids, friends, or family and spit upon pictures of them. No, we hold pictures of those we love with love. A love that is dependent upon the love that we have for the person represented in the picture.
So, we must start with love for God. It must be primary. If we do not have love for God, how can we properly love those made in His image and likeness? Yes, there may be some people who come to love of God by loving others like Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46 in regards to feeding, welcoming, clothing, caring for, and visiting others as a means for doing so for Him and as a way of going to Heaven. These people did not know God, yet they cared for God’s image and likeness. They did so not in spite of God, but simply without knowing Him. But if we know God, we should further our love for God in order to further our love for others. True love for God would do nothing less.
To love others, we must not diminish, destroy, or deny the image and likeness of God in others. Sure, others may make this difficult. Others may be abrasive to us, they may ridicule us, they may abuse us, or allow or even encourage us to do likewise to them. Those who diminish, destroy, or deny the image and likeness of God in us cannot lessen the reality of us being made in God's image and likeness, but likewise their actions do not diminish, destroy, or deny the image and likeness of God that they possess. We must still treat them with the human dignity that God gave them. There are some who sadly cannot see that they are made in God’s image and likeness. This does not permit us to treat them as though they do not have this dignity. We cannot change the reality that they are made in God’s image and likeness.
Jesus, help me to love you more and to see and protect your image and likeness in everyone.