The Book of Genesis assures that all humans are created in God’s image (1:26). This is mentioned first in the account of creation and reiterated later to Noah after the flood, when God reminds him why human life is sacred (9:6). Therefore, the sacredness of every human life cannot be ignored - regardless of the atrocities that humans seem capable of. Yes, we have to concentrate on our better side to get a better result out of this sacred project called, “humanity”.
Somehow, we need to learn how to recognize the divine image in ourselves and in others. In most cases, one needs to learn how to manifest his/her own divine image before being expected to recognized it in others too. Of course there’s the (currently) rare exception of a human being whose divine image is so fully manifest that s/he can serve as a model for others But, today such a person, who can easily serve as a light for others, is not commonly found.
It makes sense to me that manifesting one’s personal divine image and recognizing it in others is the spiritual project meant to be shared by all human beings. However, we need to be able to identify what a “divine image” even is before we can talk about proactively manifesting it.
At the very least it means that there’s something divine in the soul of every human being which is not shared by the rest of creation present in the physicality of the universe. It’s not simply speech or even intelligence, as the snake in the Garden of Eden had both and still didn’t have a divine image.
Obviously, a divine image does not mean that God’s essence has an image. Images are limitations, as they have boundaries. God is absolutely Infinite. Nothing of boundaries can be ascribed to Him. However, His revelations within finite realms, can take on finite forms. However, they are not Him. They are merely His projections. These projections or revelations are from Him, but they are not Him. It’s in this spirit that the Midrash describes Him as alternatively appearing like a warrior at the Red Sea and as a white haired sage at Mount Sinai. Also in this spirit, the prophet Ezekiel described what he prophetically envisioned as bearing “a likeness as the appearance of a man” (Ezekiel 1:26).
The Biblical commentary “Kli Yakar” picks up on this and explains that it’s possible that human souls derive from the prophetic image of man which God projects to represent Himself to the prophets (Genesis 1:26). In this sense, we are created in the image of God, that manlike image which God sometimes uses in prophetic revelation. In other words, the image which the prophets see, is not just mental imagery. It has a spiritual reality, no less than souls or angels do.
So what does this manlike image stand for, which is common to all human beings? Quite possibly, it stands for the revelation of unity in a world of separation. This unity is not intended to dislodge distinctions, but, rather to unify them. Without distinctions, there would be many unified facets and potentials which would never find their way into revelation. For example, without cellular differentiation during gestation the genetic potentials for various body parts (like arms, legs, torso, ears, eyes..) would never manifest. Such bio-distinctions are hugely valuable for the vast unifying genetic potentials they tease out. On the other hand, without a unifying life force streaming into all these distinct body parts of what use would they be? Proper coordination between them would be mostly or even entirely lacking. These precious distinctions require a unifying connection.
In humans, the image of God or the soul, is this unifying connection on the biological level. However, that’s just the start of what the image of God does within a human being; as it’s largely passive and not proactive. Each creature from the plants, the fish to the massive mammals have some spiritual force, which they’re passive to, also accomplishing the coordination of all their parts. Such a force within them is not yet called having the image of God. The real experience of the image of God is more active. It truly manifests when humans actively unify the diversity found their personal life situations and in those of others too.
The cultivation of this sensitivity and skill begins with a worldview which appreciates both sides of the equation, both the unity and the diversity. Understanding that life does not automatically come with both sides working well together, one calls on his/her desire to give (and sometime even his/her desire to receive) to promote this sacred project. In today's world, it seems to be our active work as a force for unity amid the plentiful diversity is what best manifests the image of God in each and every one of us.