A woman is rude to her waiter for bringing the wrong entree. A man gawks lustfully at woman as she walks by. A teenager ignores her sibling’s questions. A man uses a coworker to get ahead in the company. What do each of these examples have in common? They all involve one person treating another person as if they are sub-human.
In James 3:9, in the context of taming the tongue, we read, With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. As James demonstrates the hypocrisy of our speech, he adds an important qualifying statement that can help us love and respect others: people are “made in the likeness of God”. When we use someone or ignore them, we forget (or choose not to remember) that they are God’s creation, and as God’s creation are made in his image. Bottom line: God made each person and he made them to be like him in many ways.
How does this change how we treat people? It puts God back in the equation. So often we can behave as functional atheists, treating people as if God has nothing to do with their existence in this world. But if we will stop and remember that God is the creator of every person and that he made them like him, then there is an incentive for us to respect people, since to disrespect them would be to disrespect God.
This is how we act toward people who are the sons and daughters of our close friends. Even if they have done something completely bone-headed or even malicious, we stop ourselves from blowing up at them, because to do so would be to disrespect their parents. We look into their eyes and see the likeness of their parents and we choose a more diplomatic way of handling the situation.
There is a sense in which we should look at people and see God since he has made them in his image. Then, no matter how much a person may deserve a verbal shellacking or no matter how attractive a person may be, when we remember this, it will help move us from treating them as sub-human to treating them as truly human for the glory of their Maker.