Whole Life Whole Bible Day 06
Genesis 1:26-28 (NASB)
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
5: The first great commission
What is to be the role of human beings in the story about to unfold?
It’s the sixth day, and the author of Genesis 1 makes it clear — through devoting more space to it, through repetition, through the divine ‘let us’ which first plans and then executes the plan — that something even more significant is about to happen. Now the creator forms a creature unlike any of the others, who bears his image.
We give thanks that we have been created with the capacity for emotion, the ability to think and communicate — like God himself — although it’s not apparent that his ‘image’ should be identified with these abilities. It is clear that man and woman together constitute the image of God, and that humans are made for relationship with each other as well as with God. Even so, sexual differentiation extends to dolphins, chickens and elephants as well — making it an integral part of God’s design for the world but not necessarily the most significant point about being made in his image.
More notable is the connection of the image with the vocation of men and women to rule creation, as representatives of God on earth, charged with the task of ‘dominion’ over other creatures. Cultures surrounding Israel told creation stories in which people were made as slaves of the gods, with the language of ‘image’ applied only to kings. In Genesis, however, all human beings are created in the image of God, giving men and women a status and responsibility not found in other worldviews.
Genesis 1 continues to shape our views of humanity — and our lifestyles, too — since the tasks of ‘filling’, ‘subduing’ and ‘ruling’ have not been taken away. In the first place, of course, these words refer to the building of families, the growing of crops and breeding of animals, the tending of the garden to which Adam is called. Creation requires cultivation.
Such cultivation, though, provides the basis of the organisation of society and includes, by extension, the development of culture and civilisation — building houses, designing clothes, writing poetry, playing chess. These are the ‘mundane’ ways in which we, this very day, exercise our creation mandate, as we represent God’s rule over every type of cultural activity, in relationship with others and in a way that reflects God’s own nurturing, creative hand.
For further reflection and action
Try to spend some time reflecting on the fact that the first purpose of humanity is not ‘spiritual’ (in terms of the way that word is commonly understood), but the somewhat ordinary category of exercising stewardship over our earthly environment as God’s representatives. This being the case, what is it that occupies the bulk of your waking hours? Work, education, home, childcare? How is the image of God demonstrated in these areas of life?
Read and reflect on Psalm 8 and its links to Genesis 1. In what ways does its portrayal of human beings as ‘crowned with glory and honour’ (v. 5) shape our perceptions of ourselves and others?
If our fellow human beings, Christian and non-Christian alike, share the mandate to ‘cultivate’ the earth, what are the implications for the way we treat their work, art, products and so on? Are there any areas of cultural ‘cultivation’ that might be considered suspect? Advertising, cosmetics, fashion, interior design, contemporary art, weapons manufacturing?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.