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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.”
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.
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