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What God entrusted to us in creation is rather like my radial arm saw: wonderful, filled with potential, and powerful, but with “some assembly required.” Quite a bit of assembly, actually. This truth can encourage us or intimidate us. Encouragement will prevail over intimidation when we remember a few other biblical truths.
Here’s some life-changing good news. You have been asked by the Creator of the universe to help finish the work he began. God has the capacity, of course, to complete the job without you. But in his grace and providence, God has chosen to delegate to you a significant aspect of his creative and sustaining work.
Genesis 1:28 gives us the very first biblical answers to our defining questions of life. We learn that human beings were created in God’s image so as to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . . .” Theologians sometimes refer to this collection of imperatives as the “cultural mandate” (or the “creation mandate”). God created human beings so that we might make, shape, and steward culture.
If, like me, you’ve been a Christian for a while, you might find the insights of Genesis 1:28 to be obvious. It’s easy for us to assume that the biblical understanding of human life is rather ordinary, shared by most people across the world throughout history.
The truth is strikingly different, however. Many philosophies and religious traditions do not value human life in the mode of Genesis 1
When I was in college, I used to jog along the Charles River, a scenic waterway separating Cambridge from Boston, Massachusetts. The river was indeed wonderful to observe, but woe to anyone who happened to enter its waters. The Charles was so polluted with factory waste and other kinds of refuse that students were warned never to even wade in it. Should someone happen to fall in, that person was strongly exhorted to take a quick shower and get a tetanus shot (really!). Fish and birds who used the river failed to thrive and most died. It always seemed to me terribly sad that human beings had ruined such a gorgeous river.
Before moving on from the command in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful, I’d like to examine how Jesus uses this language in John 15. There, fruitfulness serves, not in its literal sense, but as a metaphor for a life that is productive for God and his kingdom. According to Jesus, we who believe in him are to “bear much fruit and become [his] disciples” (John 1:8). When we do this, God the Father is glorified.
How do we bear much fruit for the Lord?
For the last several days, I’ve been reflecting on the imperative in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful.” Most recently, I was focusing on literal fruitfulness, that is, on bearing and raising children, something in which all members of God’s family participate either directly by having children of their own or as partners with parents in the family of God.
I was planning to move on in Genesis today, but then I realized that it is Mother’s Day in the United States.
In the last few days, I have been reflecting on the command in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful.” In yesterday’s devotion, I talked about the importance of literal fruitfulness, that is, the bearing and raising of children. I am concerned that what I said, no matter how important it may be for some, might appear to leave out people who are not parents. Was I suggesting that people without children cannot experience the fruitfulness God intends for them?
For the last few of days, we have been pondering the imperative in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful.” Though this verse can be read as an invitation for us to live fruitfully in a metaphorical sense, literally it tells human beings to make more human beings, to make babies, as it were. In yesterday’s devotion, I reflected on some implications of this for sexuality, which is part of God’s good creation. Today, I want to consider one further implication of the command “Be fruitful.”
In yesterday’s devotion, we began to consider the imperative in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful.” We saw that, taken literally, this decree instructed the man and the woman to be physically fruitful, that is, to have children. In this way, they would multiply, making more people, who would make more people, ultimately filling the earth.
I would like to reflect a bit more with you on the command, “Be fruitful.”
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