I was recently reading an entry over at Mark Robert’s blog discussing how we must discover contentment in light of our creation as the image of God (you can read the full blog here). He begins by unpacking the popular idea that contentment is a willful relaxation free of cares or responsibilities, but then responds to this fashionable ideal with a reflective look at scripture’s depiction of humanity as the image of God. At one point, he wrote:
Human beings are not simply to sit on a beach and enjoy the beauty of creation. Nor are they simply to sit in a cathedral and enjoy the beauty of God. Rather, they are to be actively involved in creation and cathedral, being fruitful, multiplying, and exercising dominion. This suggests that we will be truly content as creatures when we are doing that for which we have been created. Moreover, by implication, if we are not being fruitful in our lives, if we are not exercising dominion over creation, then we will be rightly discontent.
Right on, Mark. I happen to agree that, if we want to discover contentment, we have to discover what we were made for. If we want to discover what we were made for, we have to go back to the beginning, to the creation of humanity. Even more, we have to go back and look at the setting into which humanity was placed. Namely, we have to look at creation as it was meant to be.
The first chapter of Genesis establishes a kingdom (a point I will unpack in much greater depth in a future blog). There are three salient points to this understanding. The first is that this creation account details order overcoming chaos, ie. a kingdom. The second is that God’s rest on the seventh day, when understood from the perspective of an ancient Near Eastern mind, conveys the idea of a deity settling down from His creative act to then take up His throne and rule over His creation. Essentially, this connotates a king ruling over His kingdom. The third point is that, in the midst of this, God creates humanity to bear His image and govern under His authority. It is within this context that we come to understand our purpose, and thereby our sense of fulfillment.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27)
In this context, we can discern three truths for discovering fulfillment and contentment in our lives.
We discover contentment in a whole, healthy relationship with our creator.
- Love is not fully expressed without someone to pour that love out upon. God is love. We therefore become the objects of God’s desire. Similarly, we are shaped after the image of a God in perfect relationship displayed by the trinity. This is demonstrated in the plural reference “let us make man in our image”. Thus, we also find our expression in returning the love that God so lavishly pours out upon us.
We discover contentment in whole, healthy relationships with each other.
- Jesus made clear that while the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God, the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. The idea that we were created for this is demonstrated in the final line of the Genesis quote. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” We were created male and female for the purpose of relationship.
We discover contentment in fulfilling our purpose as vice regents in God’s kingdom.
- This is first set against the backdrop of creation which, when established and functioning under God’s intended order, becomes the kingdom of God. Within this, we are created to exercise God’s delegated authority under that kingship. “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Dominion, not to be confused with domination, gives us purpose, authority, and responsibility. In a world that exists after the fall, however, this translates into a necessary participation with the Spirit of God, in accordance with His will, in restoring the kingdom into proper order under the authority of the King. It is in this context that mercy and justice become so vital. It is here that service, love, and sacrifice are given life. It is here that we who have been reconciled find our contentment in being agents of reconciliation to the world.
Well done, Mark. In my humble opinion, you nailed it.
- Original Sin: Is Humanity Naturally Good or Evil? (ofdustandkings.com)
- Podcast: Haiti and the Kingdom of God (ofdustandkings.com)
- Cultivating The Soul, p.1 : Discipleship and Spiritual Transformation (ofdustandkings.com)