So if you lived in ancient Bible times,
odds are you lived under the authority of a king.
Many of these kings claimed that they were gods.
They would even call themselves the Image of God,
meaning they had authority to tell people what to do, order things to be made.
Yeah, they got to define good and evil.
These kings would often make statues of themselves
which in Hebrew were called “Tselem”
often translated as “idol” or “image”.
But for Israel they didn’t view their kings as the god.
In fact they were never supposed to even make images of God.
That is exactly right.
That was really unique for that time and culture.
This is rooted first of all in Israel’s belief
that you cannot reduce the creator God down to any one thing in creation.
But there is another reason.
PEOPLE AREN’T TO MAKE IMAGES OF GOD BECAUSE GOD HAS ALREADY MADE IMAGES OF HIMSELF.
When did he do that?
Lets go to page 1 of the Bible.
The first person we meet there is God.
He is the one with authority over all creation.
He speaks and the creation obeys,
and He defines what is good and not good.
In other words, He alone is king.
But then surprisingly, as the pinnacle of all of God’s creative work,
He makes humans
and he calls all of them the Image of God.
So he gives all humans the authority to rule?
Exactly. That is what he goes on to say.
He tells the humans to subdue the earth and to rule it.
So this task that once belonged only to elite kings
is here in the Bible, the task of every human being.
This was a revolutionary statement in its day
because all humans are being called to rule
and to participate in the human project.
So what does this mean?
I mean, how are we all supposed to rule.
The picture we get in Genesis is gardening.
So, they rule the earth by cultivating it,
by harnessing all of the earth’s raw potential
and then making something more and new out of it.
So, growing food for each other?
Yes, but that also includes growing families,
which then becomes neighborhoods.
Then they create communities where people are going to work
他们在其中劳作 互助 经商 建设城镇
and take care of each other and build businesses and cities
and will expand to new places, and so on…
So, ruling is really the day to day acts of our work and creativity.
Yes, we take the world somewhere.
This is humanity’s divine and sacred task.
This all sounds really nice.
And humans have designed some pretty great things.
But just as often, we create things that cause a lot of suffering and a lot of injustice.
So, maybe we shouldn’t actually be ruling?
The Bible addresses this.
In Genesis, what happens is that God gives humans a choice of how they are going to rule.
So, are they going to use their authority for the benefit of others
which is God’s definition of good?
Or, are they going to turn away and define good and evil for themselves
and use their authority for self advantage?
In the story, they choose to define good and evil on their own terms.
This is the Bible’s depiction of the human condition.
Sometimes we pull off amazingly good stuff
but just as often, despite our best intentions,
we act selfishly and we create evil in the world.
So, we are stuck as mediocre rulers making a mess of things.
But that is not the end of the story.
The Bible goes on and makes this claim that all of this was resolved
when God bound himself to humanity through Jesus.
He showed us what it looks like to truly rule as a human.
So what does it look like?
Well, Jesus ruled by serving
and by seeking the best for others,
by putting himself underneath them
and loving not just His friends but also His enemies.
That is not a typical way to rule.
Not only that, Jesus confronted the consequences of all the evil and death
that we have created by our messed up ways of ruling
and he takes it, I mean he lets it kill Him.
So, when the New Testament writers looked back to Jesus’s resurrection,
they see a whole new future opening up for all humanity.
Jesus is a new way to be human.
Yeah, that is why they call Jesus
the “Image of God” or the “New Human”.
Not only that, they also believe that Jesus’ divine life and power
is now available to heal
and transform us to become our life and power.
This sounds really nice,
but what does it really look like?
Practically, the apostle Paul said it looks like
people being filled by Jesus’ own presence and spirit.
充满爱心 喜乐 和平 忍耐
filled with love and joy and peace and patience
仁慈 善良 正直 温柔和自制
and kindness and goodness and integrity and gentleness and self control
He says this is the new humanity
that God wants to create in us.
So that we become people in whom God’s image is being restored
people who will move the human project forward.
That is actually how the story of the Bible ends.
It is a renewed world where God is on His throne
and His servants are all around Him.
But they are the ones ruling over this new world,
taking it into new uncharted territory with Jesus
as their healer and their guide.