Why does the Bible say that God created male and female in the image of God? In what ways do we reflect the image of God?
The Perfect Place
We know that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:10). That is clear (Psalm 19:1-2), but what God creates is always good. In fact, during the creation week, 8 times it was said that “God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). “It was good” after He created the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and the creeping things on the ground, and the living plants on the earth. All was good that God created. Even human beings at one time “were good” but that eventually changed rather drastically (Rom 3:10-12, 23). When sin entered the picture, mankind became corrupt in his ways and in his thinking. Originally, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27), and “God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28), and they did just that, but something happened.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Genesis 3:9
Originally, God walked with Adam and Eve, meaning they had an intimate, personal relationship, but they had more than that…they had fellowship with God. At least until Eve choose to eat of the forbidden food from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3), so mankind was likened unto God’s image in that He had dominion and rule “over every living thing that moves on the earth,” and that by Adam naming each creature, it shows he had dominion over them too, however it was understood that God was still over all things. God was only placing mankind as the federal head of humanity over the earth and over all living creatures, however, at best, we are only stewards and will have to give an account to God, and as it has turned out, mankind has raped and pillaged the earth, and has ruled as a dictator over all living things rather than what He was commanded to do…to work and to keep the Garden and have dominion (not dominance) over the earth.
The Marred Image
Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve apparently walked with God, at least until the fall (Gen 3:8), but when “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8), showing they were ashamed for what they had done. They knew they had sinned. The image of God had been marred, so “the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat” (Gen 3:9-11). God already knew the answer to that but perhaps God was giving them a chance to confess and repent of their sin. Instead, Adam made an excuse and said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen 3:12). Adam blamed God for creating the woman who “did this,” but Adam was standing right next to her when Eve took it (Gen 3:6) and didn’t even try to stop her, but Eve was deceived by Satan; the man had no excuse and sinned with his eyes wide open. As a result, God “drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24). It was necessary because if they had taken of the tree of life and done so living in a sinful state, humanity may have grown so evil and violent that just in a few hundred or thousand years, all that they would have thought about was sin (Gen 6:5-12). Can you even imagine living in such a state for eternity…growing ever increasingly evil and violent? It’s bad enough in the world today, but what if we had eternal life and then lived in an eternal, sinful state? It was absolutely necessary for God to bar them from the Garden…for the future sake of humanity.
Mankind’s New Nature
After mankind’s original state of perfection (Gen 1, 2), it didn’t take long before “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), and “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Gen 6:11-12). If mankind had been permitted to partake of the tree of life, in only a few hundred years, the earth would have already been full of violence and corruption, so we can see why God had to put Adam and Eve (and mankind!) out of the Garden, however, God did keep that door open for a select few, like Noah and his family, but the original image of God that mankind was made into the image of, was now completely marred. All mankind ever thought about was coming up with new ways to sin. Whatever their imagination could think of, they’d probably do it. Mankind had fallen fast and hard from the original image of God, but another way that mankind was created in the image of God is that He can think, is rational, can plan, can build and create, has purpose, and is totally unique because mankind has a conscience and can know right from wrong (Rom 1:18-20, 2:14-15). He has freedom to choose and freedom not to choose, so the image of God is more about how mankind thinks and acts, than having arms and feet and eyes. God is Spirit and Spirit is not composed of flesh and blood (John 4:24).
Another way to be in God’s image is when we choose to do good to our enemies (Luke 6:27). We’re also more in the image of God when we do what Jesus commands us to do, like doing good to those who do evil to us (Luke 6:35), just as God sends the rain on the just and the unjust, or blesses all mankind in a general sense (Matt 5:45). When we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we’re becoming similar to the image of God…and of Christ. Jesus Christ prayed for God to forgive those who were nailing Him on a cross because they didn’t really know what they were doing (Luke 23:34). You bear a godly image when you give to people, not what they deserve, but what they need, and that is love. That’s what God did for us, loving us and dying for us while still wicked, ungodly sinners who were natural enemies of God (Rom 5:6-10)! Jesus is the most vivid image of God!
If you desire to live a holy life, that’s more like the image of God. When you pray for your enemies, that’s more like the image of God. We know that God is sinless and perfect and complete in every way, but we can also be accounted righteous and appear sinless before God by trusting in Christ. As we do, we become the righteousness of Jesus Christ Who became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). To be Christ-like in loving others is to show others that we truly are His disciples (John 13:34-35). That kind of love is bearing a strong resemblance to Jesus Christ. In a sense, we are so much like the moon…we have no natural beauty and a complete barren, wasteland. It is only when the sun shines on the moon that it is beautiful; it is barren and hostile, and cannot support life, and the moon has no source of light, so really, it is all dark. In order to be seen, it must reflect the light of the sun, so in this way, we can reflect the glory of God by letting others see Christ in us. How will they ever know what Christ looks like unless they see Him in us? If we reflect Christ, we are in the image of God. We were created to glorify God, but as John MacArthur said, “You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read.”
Here is some related reading for you: How to be Transformed into the Image of Christ 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.