Francis DuBose in his work, God Who Sends, highlights the relationship between the imago Dei (image of God) and the missio Dei (the mission of God). The image of God in (or on) man was not lost at the fall; however, it was damaged. At the time Moses wrote Genesis, kings and emperors would place images throughout their kingdom signifying their reach and reign. Many scholars believe that God intended to convey this message to humanity: that they were placed here to image God to the created order. In other words, God’s intention for humans is to reflect his glory. This only happens when man is in right relationship with God, fellowshipping with him and enjoying perfect communion with him.
When Adam and Eve rebelled and sinned against God, they severed the perfect fellowship and communion with God, thereby distorting and damaging his image in (or on) them. While man would still function as humans, the fundamental functions would, in fact, be misguided, misdirected, misappropriated, and mishandled. What are the fundamental functions God intended for humanity one may ask? Genesis 1:28 provides them: to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, subdue the earth, and have dominion on the earth. To sum this up in headings, the fundamental functions of humanity were: relational, cultural, and managerial (steward/overseer).
These three functions are alive and well within the human race today. Although these functions are to be practiced with the glory of God as the aim, they are not because of the Fall. These functions, because of God’s image in man being damaged, are misguided, misdirected, misappropriated, misunderstood, mishandled, and misused. We live in a fallen world, with a fallen race (humanity); and with a fallen race, comprised of damaged image bearers, you will find broken and fractured relationships, corrupted culture, and power-craved individuals and peoples. All of this is found both on the micro and macro level of humanity, and we all (at some time) have been guilty of breaking and fracturing a relationship, corrupting culture, and abusing power. In other words, we have all sinned.
Therefore, the missio Dei has, at the core, aims at restoring and renewing the imago Dei in man. This restoration mission and project is not solely individualistic, it is corporate and communal. God is on mission to restore a people unto himself, that they may be a people that bring him glory, honor, praise, and adoration. This mission seeks to restore a people for him to be their God and they his people, living in his glorious kingdom reflecting his majestic glory. Paul, in a few places, captures this notion of redeeming and renewing God’s image in man (Col 3:10; Rom 5:12-21; 8:29; 1 Cor 15:45-49; 2 Cor 3:12-18). In addition, there are other passages where the idea is certainly present.
As the church lives in the world on mission, they must not forget that the missio Dei is seeking to redeem and restore the imago Dei, in order that man may once again be in a perfect relationship by which they bring and reflect the glory of God in the created order.