In his commentary on Genesis 1:14-31, John H. Walton writes:
Our capacity to be godlike impacts our view of ourselves and of what should characterize our lives as we seek to deepen our relationship with God. While an ethical system that is above reproach should typify Christians, it cannot represent the sum total of the faith. In the end, our Christianity can not be defined by a a set of rules that we live by. Nor can we punch in and punch out by the clock. Our aspiration is to be godlike, and in that goal we find our purpose.
We live in a goal-oriented society that attempt to delineate everything, reducing it to a list so that we can assess the achievement of our goals. Employees are anxious to know precisely by what criteria their job performance will be evaluated. Education is encumbered with outcome assessments and the setting and meeting of measurable objectives. Students want to know what they will be tested on so they can target particular skills or knowledge. College applicants know that attractiveness to the institution of their choice is going to be encapsulated in their performance on standardized tests. Teachers know that principals are going to evaluate them on the basis of the scores of their students, so they teach with an eye toward those tests. Principals know their school is going to be judged by the state on the basis of the scores of the students, so they pressure the teachers. This is the reductionism that drives every aspect of our society, and it has become part and parcel of Christianity. The good news is that we are free from the law and its potential for reductionism.
When educators talk about measurable outcomes, I get a knot in my stomach, for I firmly believe that there are many important outcomes that can not be measured. But if they can not be measured, they get left off the list of targeted outcomes. just as being educated means more than acquiring certain skills and knowledge, being Christian means more than living by a certain set of rules. God tells his people Israel, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). Paul encourages the Philippians, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5), and admonishes the Ephesians “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:23-24) and to be “imitators of God” (5:1).
The laws of Israel gave them illustrations of what their faith should look like, but their faith was not circumscribed by the law. Lists like the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12) and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) illustrate some of the outcomes of our faith, but no list is comprehensive. we aspire to attain the godlikeness that the image of God has made possible in us.
26 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.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Let us be an outworking of who you are. Let us be so united with you that we live out your life on the face of this planet. May people see you when they look closely at us.
- How many times is the image of God emphasized in Genesis 1:26-31?
- What is mankind’s relationship to the rest of creation?
- How does John H. Walton challenge common Christian rule-keeping in light of people being image-bearers?
- How does being an image-bearer apply to the field of education?
- How might you need to change your attitude to more fully reflect God?