Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Cultural Mandate and the Image of God

Post 8

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over … all the earth....

Sorry about the heavy terminology in today’s heading. Don’t worry: The terms are not as difficult to understand as they may sound. In the previous post, I discussed the human race as the image bearer of God. Today’s may seem like a change of subject, but it isn’t. It is going to give some contents to that image.

How would you answer the question: What is the first commandment or assignment given us in the Bible? Perhaps you would say, “Love God and your neighbour” (Matthew 22:38-40). Or maybe you would reply, “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19). Well, yes, both of them would be correct. More specifically, the question is: What is the very first commandment given in the Bible before any other? The answer is found in today’s text. Even though this commandment is found in the very first chapter in the Bible, it is amazing that most Christians are hardly aware of it--and disturbing!

If you have a kind of spiritually negative view of the world, it may come as a surprise to you that the first assignment we read about in the Bible is a very worldly one. No, it is not to preach or witness in the way most Christians mean those words. Neither is it to pray or build a church. It is to rule. Rule over what? In short, “over all the earth.”

Though this first command may come as a surprise to you, it should not be so, for Gen. 1 shows us a creating God who rules His Kingdom. If we are made in His image, ruling the earth is therefore not foreign to us. He has created what He wanted to and now hands it over to the human race to rule, to manage in His name, to work with, to take care of. This very first commandment is known as the Cultural Mandate. Please remember that term.

At the time this story was written, the Pagans around Israel were afraid of many things in the creation. They tended to think of sun, moon and stars as some sort of gods. They feared many trees as inhabited by spirits and did not dare touch them. Rocks and mountains, animals and sea monsters, even the sea itself, were objects of fear. These things ruled them as far as they were concerned. Israel was not to be a Pagan nation, but the people were often strongly tempted to adopt the religions of the peoples around them.

Now the Israelites were told that they were to rule all these things that ruled the Pagans. Don’t be afraid of them, the story tells them. Don’t let them rule over you. There is nothing divine about any of it. God made it all and assigned you to rule over it all!

What a revolutionary command this was! It completely turned upside down the whole worldview of the Pagans of their day, that worldview that was so tempting to Israel.

So, as a member of the human race, you are member of a royal family. Every human being as imager bearer has blue blood in her veins. This is true even for the poor and illiterate. Together, as we rule this creation, take care of it, develop it positively. Together we express and display the image of God, the image of the Creator whose work we continue. That is part of the meaning of both the image of God and of the Cultural Mandate.

These two concepts and realities—actually this is one single reality, not plural—will underlie much of the material in future posts both on this blog as well as < Christmus—ChristiansAndMuslims >. So, do keep them in mind, not only as terms but as to their meaning.

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