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. – Genesis 1:26-7 (NIV).
When Adam was created, the job was not finished, for he was only half of a whole. Adam could not fully reflect God’s image, for he was one being, and God is not.
It’s very difficult to understand how male and female together reflect God’s image without understanding the Trinity. For God is one God, but three distinct persons, who delight in self giving love and rich mutual fellowship. One God, three distinct persons, who are perfectly aligned in purpose and work together as one. God’s vision for humanity is for us to reflect this same ‘oneness in diversity.’
When God looks at the earth and his image bearers, he wants to see himself reflected back, like a mirror. He wants to see a clear reflection of himself in us as individuals, but more importantly, in our relationships. After all, Jesus prayed for all of us that ‘they will all be one, just as you and I are, as you are in me, Father, and I am in you.’
Adam cannot reflect God’s image alone. He cannot demonstrate the crucial characteristics of a God who gives and shares and loves when he is alone. So God created someone for him.
What God created for Adam was neither superior or inferior, but an equal. One half of a polarity as the south pole is to the north pole – she will be his strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes and his first roadblock when he veers off course.
Just as God exists as three distinct, equal persons, male and female were created to be an equal, balanced force for God’s glory in the world.
So the ideals of biblical equality, or Jesus feminism, may sound new and revolutionary, but actually go back to the garden – that things improve and better decisions are reached when men and women work together, as they were created to do.
For women, what does this life look like? If we have established that we are created to complete the reflection of God in humanity – how do we help in this task God has set humanity? This is the task we looked at in the last post, of multiplying image bearers, filling the world with God’s glory and ruling it as God’s representatives. This is a big task – the biggest task ever set. The kind of help needed for this is the full deployment of a woman’s strengths, her gifts and the best she has to offer.
To see how male and female representatives of God should interact and work with each other, we must look to the Trinity, the original design and designers. When we look to the relationships between God and Jesus and Spirit through scripture, we see a pattern of mutual submission. Where each is willing to give up their rights and serve out of selfless love. No one is reduced to a supporting role – all are vitally needed for the task at hand, to redeem humanity.
Just as all aspects of the Trinity are needed, so both male and female are crucial to the task. In this job, our first line of defense and our primary source of strength is our theology – what we knows about God. I hope I have showed that – for without understanding the Trinity, how can we understand God and how he relates and loves? Without knowing how God, the one whose image we are to reflect, relates and loves, how can we?
For even the strongest among us will not be spared dark nights of the soul. We are foolish to think we can stand firm ourselves, much less offer strength to others if we have armed ourselves with false, hollow or culture-specific theology. We need to know God better so we won’t be trying to trust a stranger when the storm comes and we are set adrift. We need to know God better so we know for ourselves the role in his kingdom we have to play, rather than accepting what is passed on through culture.