I have been reading ‘Half The Church’ by Carolyn Custis James and blogging my thoughts on it. Part 1 is available here.
What does bearing God’s image in a broken world look like? What does it really look like, when life is messy and hard and you’re tired and over it? What do we do when the ‘ideal’ life presented by society and the reality of our lives collide?
Even the church buys into the myth that we don’t live in a broken world, and seems to suggest that if we follow the formula for right Christian living, we too can have the perfect life – that marriage, children, health, home, career and money will all fall into place. Apparently a conflict free life awaits the faithful follower of Jesus, where bearing God’s image is just another thing that will sort itself out.
But the world is a mess and so are we. Yet these are circumstances in which we are called to follow Jesus and bear God’s image. So, back to the original question – what does bearing God’s image look like?
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” – Genesis 1:26-28 (NIV)
Going back to where the original command was issued, we see it is alongside the ‘be fruitful and multiply/increase in number’ instruction. God is commanding us to multiply image bearers. As his image bearers reflect his attributes – goodness, mercy, love, justice, truth and grace – and go out into the world, his glory too spreads over the earth.
Along with the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ instruction is the call to ‘rule and subdue.’ This is a call to leadership that follows the Jesus model – not grabbing authority or power for ourselves, but the self-giving, costly, servant-hearted leadership of Jesus. Ruling and subduing are strong expressions that ultimately convey the weighty responsibility on us to look after all creation on God’s behalf. God calls both men and women to to work together as compassionate, proactive leaders who look after things in this world for him.
These commands are echoed much later in the bible’s story when Jesus commissions his disciples for the task ahead – which is our task too. But it turns out this is not a new task. It is the same command God gave humanity in the beginning – go, increase the number of image bearers, spread the good news, make disciples of mine, baptize and fill the earth.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
Just as the commands to multiply image bearers and to rule the whole earth are aimed at women too, so is this commission. God never envisioned a world where his image bearers would do life in low gear or be encouraged to hold back especially when suffering is rampant, people are lost, and there is so much kingdom work to do.
It’s not overstating things to say that there are dire global repercussions if half the church backs away from Gospel work thinking it isn’t for them. For God chooses his workers, and he has chosen all his adopted children to carry out his mission of telling his good news. If we rule out anyone by holding them to our own human standards, we need to step back and remember who it is who does the Gospel work. Constantly we must remind ourselves that it is God who works through us.