Made In God's Image

Core Truth:

God, the self-existent creator, called the world into being through his infinite creativity and power. The peak of God’s creative work was humankind, male and female, made exclusively in his image. (Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p.72)

Scripture Reading: Genesis chapters 1-2, Mark 10:6-16

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 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." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:26-3

A thought for today:

Often when a leader is about to step away from a position of leadership or maybe take on another role of leadership, they have to prepare someone to come after them and continue their work. The continued work will hopefully follow the same vision and direction as the previous leader but will take on the new characteristics of this next generation of leadership. This is exactly what God intended for humanity. It was and remains our job to continue God's work of creation, by cultivating the raw materials of the earth into systems, structures and societies that reflect God's goodness. So how did God create, and what does that mean for us?

From nothing to something, from bedlam to beauty, from chaos to community--when God conceived of creation and spoke the universe into existence, he designed it with structure, order and intention. His creativity reflected his perfect holiness, loving goodness and glorious nature. Genesis chapters one and two give two different accounts of creation that communicate complementary truths about God's good creative work. The first account from chapter one until chapter two verse three is a Hebraic poem that begins with God creating frameworks in the first three days of creation. Day one separates light from darkness. Day two is the creation of an atmosphere above the watery earth that separates the earth from the heavens. Day three is the separation of land and water with the addition of plant-life. Over the next three days God fills those structures. Day four fills the domains of light and darkness with the creation of the sun, moon and stars. Day five populates the atmosphere with birds and the waters with fish. Day six reveals God's purposes for dry land with the creation of land animals and humans who will eat the vegetation grown on the earth. Humanity, made in God's image as male and female, comes last of all. Humanity is given a commandment (1:28-29) to reproduce and populate the world, cultivating creation in a creative way that reflects God's holiness, loving goodness and glorious nature. The work of caring for, cultivating and subduing creation comes part and parcel with humanity being made in God's image (1:26). In this single command God hands the mantle of leadership over to humanity. We are likewise to follow God's pattern of creating beautiful frameworks in every area of our lives, then filling those frameworks. We build houses and live in them. We build cities and dwell in them. We cultivate fields and plant them. We make canvases and paints, and we fill those canvases with the paints. We develop policies and procedures for better living and then execute them. So why don't we see humanity fully living into this role? Why isn't our work always beautiful and good?

This is where the second account of creation (chapter 2:4 onward) comes in. In this narrative, the man Adam comes first and is given the job of naming and having authority over creation, of bringing more structure. God uses this first task to help raise up and train Adam as this leader of creation. Along the way it becomes evident that humanity cannot complete this work without humans being in unified community, just as the Trinity is one God in nature and essence in a community of three persons. So God creates the woman Eve and in this act effectively declares that marriage will be the sign for all of creation of the unity and community of the Trinity. Marriage will become a unique unit and sign of God-like creativity and life. Only in working and partnering together can this God-like work be complete--whether in the context of human marriage (as seen here) or in the context of the Church (a spiritual marriage between Christ the second Adam and his bride the Church, as seen throughout the New Testament). This is why, by the way, Jesus considers divorce so tragic and not part of God's original design for us humans. Divorce and other such tragedies are part of our experience because humanity failed at the second task that God used in raising and training up humanity for this leadership role--obedience through trust (i.e., faith with action). One cannot cultivate trust in others unless one is first trusting of others. God commanded Adam and Eve to not partake of the fruit of a particular tree. It was a test of their willingness to trust without understanding why. As we know from chapter three, they failed this test; this is why humanity has never fully lived into its original role, though in Christ we are being made new and brought to maturity so that one day we will be able step into this role again. How could creation continue to trust and obey humans if we ourselves were unwilling to trust and obey God? And what does all of this mean for those of us who are stuck in this in-between place of seeing our calling and not yet being fully redeemed?

It means three things, all of which are especially appropriate to consider during the season of Lent. First, God created by conceiving of something good and bringing it into existence through speech. We, too, first conceive of something before we act to bring it into existence. If we conceive of evil, we have a unique capacity of all earthly creatures to premeditate and execute that evil into existence. Our creative faculties have made us capable of thinking up and executing all manner of destruction. Second, the way out of this cycle for us is the same path toward maturity that God intended for Adam and Eve. Jesus says in Mark's gospel (10:15) that "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." The image here is one of trusting obedience without understanding why. By placing our faith in Jesus both in the ultimate sense (trusting him to deliver us from sin and unite us to God again) and in the day-to-day sense (trusting him for "how I should respond to such-and-such in my day"), we will be raised to the spiritual maturity that the first humans never achieved. Third, when the Holy Spirit works through us, God's creative work can actually reverse and undo the effects of sin in our lives and in the world. Therefore, our work in almost any field is never without purpose and meaning. Unless what we are doing is direct exploitation of others or debasing of our own dignity, any work can become a vehicle for God's creative and redemptive work. It must simply be submitted to God. Ask God this Lenten season how you can creatively reflect his perfect holiness, loving goodness and glorious nature in your work.

by the Rev. Josh Kammerer