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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.”
After God created humankind as male and female, he blessed them and gave them instructions: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . .” (1:28). The first imperative given to human beings is “be fruitful.” What does this mean?
My friend Paul worked hard for decades, achieving considerable success as a leader in education and business. Finally, Paul retired with the hope of enjoying the benefits of the “good life” he had earned through his considerable efforts. In particular, he looked forward to playing lots of golf. That’s exactly what Paul did. Soon he became a superior golfer, winning dozens of tournaments. But Paul was not happy in the way he had expected. Though he had ample time for golf and relaxation, he was not fulfilled. So Paul decided to go back to work, taking up real estate as a new profession. He wanted to get back to making a difference in the world beyond making birdies and accumulating golf trophies. He loved the idea of helping people find just the right house for their needs.
We naturally assume that it’s a good thing to be blessed. But, during my years in Texas, I realized that “bless” can have various nuances. If a Texan ever says to you, “Bless your heart,” that turns out not to be completely good. The phrase “Bless your heart” carries an assumption that something bad is happening in your life or that you’re a person with some kind of defect. “Bless your heart” might really mean “Bless your heart [because you just lost your job]” or “Bless you heart [because you don’t have any friends].”
Each human being bears the image of God. This fundamental truth shapes our lives and relationships. It tells us that all human beings, including ourselves, have intrinsic worth and purpose.
Yet, as we pay close attention to Genesis 1:26-27, we see that God’s image is not revealed only through individual persons. The divine image is also seen in human community, especially the community represented by male and female.
In yesterday’s reflection, we saw how the biblical story of each person bearing God’s image stood out in a culture that tended to reserve this image only for people of exceptional power. We began to consider how the fact that all people are created in God’s image might shape our behavior and challenge our own cultural practices.
For those of us who are familiar with the Judeo-Christian tradition, the notion of human beings bearing God’s image is a familiar one. We may not grasp the implications of this astounding truth and may not live it out consistently, but we are not surprised to hear that all human beings are made in God’s own image.
This would not be true for the original audience of Genesis 1. In fact, that which we take for granted would have been stunning to them, not to mention transformational.
In yesterday’s devotion, we began to consider the astounding truth that we are like God. God made human beings in God’s own image and likeness. Even though sin has tarnished that image, as we’ll see in Genesis 3, we still reflect and embody the divine image.
I mentioned yesterday that theologians differ considerably in their understanding of what God’s image actually entails. Some try to identify this image with certain human qualities, such as rationality or spirituality. Others see God’s image more holistically, represented by unified human beings.
Have you ever been told that you’re like someone else, someone you admire and respect, someone you’d love to be like? I had that experience many times while growing up. My family and I were members of Hollywood Presbyterian Church, where my Uncle Don was one of the pastors. People in the church would tell me I looked like Don, sounded like Don, and acted like Don. I took that as a supreme compliment because I thought my Uncle Don was just about the coolest person in the world. The notion that I was like Don delighted me and encouraged me to aspire to live a fruitful life for the kingdom, just as Don was doing.
Today, I finish my short devotional detour, in which Charles Wesley’s marvelous hymn, “For Believers Before Work” is our inspiration. Yesterday, we looked closely at the first three stanzas of this hymn. Today, we’ll be focusing on the last three. Tomorrow, we’ll return to Genesis.
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