These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, June 14, 2020.
Part 1 of HUMAN. Various Passages.
Today, we begin a voyage of discovery called Human. We're exploring what it means to be people. Why? Because knowing who we are is crucial to knowing how we fit into the world, and how we relate to other humans, and the nature of our connection to God.
Understanding what it means to be human also helps us explain why there is so much trouble and strife in the world. It should also inspire us to work for peace and love. We'll look at all this in the weeks ahead.
There have been three ages of human existence: creation, collapse, and Christ. In the first age, we were made by God, then in the second age, we were unmade by sin, and now in the third age, we are being remade in Christ. This perspective helps us make sense of what's going on in our lives and in the world. It explains why there are loving relationships in a world of hate, hurt, and horror. It sheds light on why we simultaneously admire and fear the human race.
Today, we're exploring that first age: humans were made by God and we were made for three relationships that define our humanity: our relationship to the world, to each other, and to God himself.
HUMANS WERE MADE FOR THE PLANET
Recently, I found a YouTube channel that is focused on our nation's National Parks. I love exploring National Parks. I feel such a connection to the planet, to the wonders of mountains and rivers and wildlife. Of course, I'm not alone. Every human feels the same. Why is that? The answer is found in the first chapters of Genesis. That's where we find that God created us for the world. Let's visit day six of creation:
(Genesis 1:26, 28-29) Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
While it's true to say that God created the world for us, as a place to populate and a place of provision, it is just as true to say that God created us for the world. We are to rule and subdue. Does that mean we are free to pollute and plunder the planet as absolute, uncaring monarchs? Probably not. Look at Genesis 2 for an explanation of what it means to rule the earth:
(Genesis 2:15-20) The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
This is where the whole idea of work began. Humans steward or manage the planet, bringing order out of the chaos. We'll talk about that in the weeks ahead. We are God's gardeners with a duty of care. The Garden of Eden was like a temple and Adam and Eve were like priests offering their work in the Garden as worship.
The planet is not a god to be worshipped, nor is it a toxic waste dump to be abused. The planet is a gift from God and a temple for God.
God made us for the planet and that's why we feel awe when we see the Grand Canyon, and it's why we love planting trees, and tending our vegetables, and kayaking on the lake, and walking in National Parks. We feel our original calling to steward the planet for God.
HUMANS WERE MADE FOR PEOPLE
Have you ever wondered why cities and subdivisions exist? Why do girls and boys in elementary schools give out Valentines cards? Why do little babies stare at their parents' faces? Why do we form businesses and nations, friendships and families? Why the church?
The answer to each question is the same: God made us for relationships. That's our original design, hard-wired into us. God made us for connection, community, cooperation, and kissing. Creation, day six is once again our guide:
(Genesis 1:27) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
The first humans were created plural, not solo. Genesis two explains why:
(Genesis 2:18) The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Men, God knows we need help. This doesn't mean women are inferior in any way since In Deuteronomy 33:29, the Lord is Israel's helper. Genesis simply reveals that life is better together. We don't thrive in isolation; we need companionship. Hear the wisdom of Solomon
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Why do humans persist in seeking relationships even when people cause us so much pain? It is because connection to other humans is integral to our humanity. Why are we sickened by war and racism and child abuse? It is because these represent the destruction of relationships. God weeps tears from heaven and we grieve on earth for the loss of our humanity.
Years ago, Kim and I went hiking in a forest in Kentucky. When we got back to our van, the back window had been smashed and some of our stuff had been stolen. I felt violated. It wasn't the value of the stuff. It wasn't that they broke the law. It was that they shattered the deep bond between humans and desecrated my humanity. God made us for each other.
HUMANS WERE MADE FOR GOD
Have you ever wondered why every culture on earth has some form of religion? It seems that people have a built-in need to connect to something bigger or beyond themselves. The human quest for the transcendent, no matter what form it takes, reveals that we are designed for a connection to the Creator God. This is exactly the point of Genesis 1:
(Genesis 1:26a-27) Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness ... So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
We are made by God for God. This is the meaning of "image and likeness." Put another way: We were designed for a relationship with God and to represent God; to connect and reflect.
Relationship: God's original design was for humans to live in unbroken access and friendship with him:
(Genesis 3:8-9) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Representative: We were also were created to live as his representatives - sort of his avatars or co-workers - in the world. In some way or other, we point to God.
Our understanding that we are all made in God's Image and likeness, that we're all made by God and for God, is the source of three very important foundational ideas about every single human who has ever lived, without exception:
We are all created equal.
We all have great worth and dignity.
We all matter to God.
CONCLUSION: NARROW IT DOWN
Today has been a lot to take in. Maybe too much and we'll all walk away and do nothing about it. So, I have a suggestion: ask the Holy Spirit to show you one insight to apply in your life. For example:
Maybe you need to develop a more appreciative or benevolent approach to this beautiful planet. Help clean up a park or river. Grow something. Buy an electric car.
Maybe you need to work on your relationships. Is there someone you need to forgive? Consider joining one of our small groups. Serve someone in need.
Maybe it's the God connection that you need to figure out. Talk to me and I'd be happy to answer questions or point you to resources. God has made himself know in Jesus Christ, so consider exploring Jesus. Again, I can help you with that.
The burning issue of the day is, of course, systemic racism. The fact that God made us in his image and likeness means this is not a matter of politics. This isn't a left or right issue. It's a God-issue and a deeply human issue. Remember:
We are ALL created equal.
We ALL have great worth and dignity.
We ALL matter to God.
There is absolutely no biblical justification for racism. It is a sin against God and our fellow humans, all of whom are made in God's image and likeness with equal worth and dignity. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what you can do to work against injustice and racism. And if you have been sinning in this area, repent right now. Change your mind and your actions and walk in the ways of Jesus. Confess your sins to God and he will cleanse and forgive you through Jesus Christ our savior. Amen.