Meaning of Life 1.3 – The Initial Image

After a week off for the Summit and other stuff, let’s get back to the meaning of life.   Here are links to the discussion so far.

Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness…

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; 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 of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Years ago, I was doing a word study connected to the major ideas in these passages, working on “image,” “likeness,” “rule,” “subdue,”  “work,” and “take care of.”  What hit me was this: God places an image of himself in a territory that will from that point forward be known as His, a benevolent proxy-regent that exercises strong energy in shaping and making in this new world, using great care to cultivate it, protect it, populate it, and to live God’s life there.  And all of this is pre-fall.  Before the brokenness of things, before sin, before the mission of finding the lost.   Here is proper place of beginning in any search for that elusive meaning in life.   What I was immediately reminded of was the Christ.   The servant-king who comes to give abundant life, to ensure that it’s happening for all the image-carriers of God.

Worth starts here.  That each and every human being carries within them this image, this imprint, this DNA of God, if you will.   Traces of divinity, nuances from God’s very nature, sensitivities from sources of Being far beyond us–this is the heart of humanity, birthed from a God responsible for all being, all love, all purpose, all meaning.   Each birth, each beginning, from the most pristine of births to the most shatteringly disabled newborns, is this creation all over again.  Tinged with an inevitable fall, each of us emerges with an echo of original making, placed into a life teeming with possibility, beauty, and expanding hope.

I was having a conversation with a business professor from Seattle Pacific University last Saturday night, and he talked about the paradigm shift his students went through when he explained to them that work existed before the fall.  That the work of keeping and tending the garden, the work of subduing and ruling the earth was a good thing, a thing of meaning and worth in its own right.   I could see the excitement in his eyes as he talked.   Exciting, indeed…this notion changes everything.  It means that life is at its heart about making, the creative move to make a world, adding to its potential by imagination and innovation, protecting the good through diligence and discipline.  In other words, life is not primarily religious, which is to say it is not primarily a subset of itself, is not of a smaller category than the totality.   All of life and living is contained in the Imago Dei and what we call the Cultural Mandate.

The implications of this are staggering, touching every arena of human endeavor and responsibility.  The current discussion of sustainability and “green” practice is, in its essence, a discussion that is right down these lines, and is a discussion we should have had a long, long time ago.  Frankly, I’m a little late to that game of caring for the earth in these ways, but I’m coming around.   In the end, I always come back to this summation: we have been given a kingdom plot of ground (everything within the range of our effective will–Dallas Willard), and our purpose is found in living on that plot of ground to the glory of God, cultivating, tending, protecting, growing, making, so that when the true Owner and Ruler of that ground walks there, He finds beauty, love, newness, and all manner of things that sustain life.

In the story, brokenness is coming, I know.   But linger here for a moment: the way the story is told, sin has not yet arrived.  But there is life.  Full, abundant, walk-with-God-in-the-cool-of-the-evening life.  Cultivating, expanding, working life.

I often tell students, “You can stop looking for meaning now, it has already been given.”

Still making stuff…

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