Biblical Christianity has gotten a bad reputation over the years, and partly because of the misdeeds of Jesus’ followers. We’ve been accused of harboring racism and justifying slavery, and unfortunately there's some basis to it. There've been plenty of Christians who've preached from the pulpit (at least in the 19th century) that slavery is condoned and even blessed by God, and--even though it's not considered socially acceptable--you can still find Christians today who claim that A) they believe the Bible word-for-word and also that B) people of a different skin color are somehow inferior in God’s eyes.
It would be very hard to express just how important today's passage is to human history in counteracting these notions. To just scratch the surface, let me ask some very simple questions:
If you believe that the Lord created all of humanity (both sexes) in his own image,
1) How can you believe in racial superiority?
2) How can you be a sexist (believing that one sex is innately superior)?
3) How can you believe that abortion is approved by God?
4) How can you believe that anyone’s worth or value is determined by their ability to contribute to society?
It's no coincidence that every single major positive reform movement over the last two centuries was led by Christians inspired by these verses: the abolition of slavery, the abolition of child labor, legal equality for women, the civil rights movement, etc. It's also no coincidence that as Western civilization moves away from a belief in the Bible (including these verses), it'll also lose sight of the preciousness of human life. Note the rise of euthanasia and partial-birth abortion.
But this also raises questions for me as a socially conservative Christian. I'd never vote for a pro-abortion politician, but how do I treat my neighbor down the street who’s in need? How about the guy who just cut me off on the freeway? What about the girl in a skimpy dress on TV? How about that child who just stepped on my last nerve? Do I treat them as created in God’s image?
Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not treating every person I meet as an image-bearer who's infinitely valuable, a soul for whom you died. Help me to see them as I should see them, either as a sibling in Christ or as a sheep without a shepherd. Either way, they're precious to you and should be precious to me.