Imago Dei: East of Eden
By: Sarah Norman
God placed the Garden of Eden in the east (Gen 3:24). Then when he sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden, He sent them east and placed a guard at the entrance where they could no longer enter (Gen 4:24). The people who built the tower of Babel were from the east (Gen11:2). There's a whole narrative through the Bible where people are going east, away from God. They are just a little too far east to be fully connected with God. Throughout all the Bible, God is trying to bring us back to Him.
In Matthew 2 we see the wise men coming from the east to Jesus. We're told in Matthew 24:27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” The way humans get back to God is through Jesus. We know the way back, but so many of us just choose not to take it. God's design for our lives is to live fully in his image, imago dei, like we talked about last week. That design is in stark contrast to how this world tells us we need to live. The way back to God being through Jesus is God's design for us and it is what brings us salvation and what brings us life.
We talked last week about the fact that our goal should be to delight in God's design for us. God created us all with a specific purpose to glorify Himself. We are created in his image because that is what brings Him glory. Being made in His image means we exhibit character traits of God. Last week I talked mostly to women, this week it will be mostly to men, but just like last week, this can apply to all of us.
God created us with a purpose, and part of that purpose is to take what we've been given, prepare something from it and present it to God. That is our act of worship to God. Worship is not just sitting in a church pew singing songs off key and listening to someone preach. Adam and Eve did not have buildings, church pews, musical instruments or another person to teach them. Their worship, and in Genesis 2, Adam's worship since he came first, was through his work, through his taking care of the earth. In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel's worship of God was in what they presented to God from the work they had done. God accepted Abel's sacrifice because he gave the best portion of what he had worked on. When you go to work, is that what you do? Do you see your office, your field, your farm, your factory or your home as a place where you can worship God through the work you are doing?
God told Adam to till the earth and to keep it. So not only does your worship of God have to do with how you view work, but he tells us to preserve, to take care of what He has given us. How different would our world be if everyone had this mindset about our work and our purpose. When we work, when we worship, when we go about our day, we are suppose to keep and preserve that which God has put into our care. Did Adam do that? No. Adam was to take care of the land and he was to love and take care of his wife, yet when the serpent shows up, he decides to say nothing to Eve, decides to not interject that maybe it isn't a good idea to eat fruit that God has forbidden, but instead, Adam sees an opportunity to usurp power from God and do his own thing, then instead of taking care of his wife, he throws her under the bus and puts the entire blame on her. Adam did not live up to his good design from God.
When men choose to live in the image of Adam, power is usurped from God and taken for themselves. We see evidence of that all over the world, in constant wars, in degradation of the environment, in the subjugation of woman as second class citizens throughout most of history and still in current day throughout a lot of the world. God did not call men to live in the image of Adam, but in the image of Himself.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-3 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is what we have been called to as image bearers. To live with humility, gentleness, patience, love, and to seek unity in the spirit. To live in the image of Adam, taking power and authority wherever one can find it is not the calling God has put on men who are suppose to bear his image. Jesus said blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the poor in spirit. These are not characteristics we ever really want to think about, for both men and women, because they are portrayed in our culture as weak. A look back through history of the American church will show you these characteristics are left out when talking about men. They are used mainly to describe women, but these characteristics are not gendered and we see that clearly when we look at Genesis 2 and the work God told Adam to do in tilling the earth and keeping it, preparing the earth as worship and preserving what God has given.
So much of what we believe about manhood and womanhood has to do with results from the fall. We fail to see that, after the fall, God is constantly trying to bring us back east, back to Eden, back to before the fall. Before the fall, there wasn't a power struggle. Like I wrote last week, God told both Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it and to have dominion over it. Those commands were not gendered either. The answer to our struggle to get back to Eden, is to look to Jesus. Just like the wise men from the east knew they needed to go west, seeking the one who brought the star, Jesus is constantly trying to bring us back towards God, back towards the original design He had for us before the fall. In our limited and fallible minds, we have such a hard time imaging the good design that God had in his original creation.
So this is not to berate men or any person who chooses to read this, this is to encourage you, as you go out into the world or remain in your home, God has given you a purpose and that purpose is to be used to worship him. He has given you a skill, a talent, that you are to take and prepare something that you can give back to God. And he has given you the job of preserving what he has put you in leadership over, whether that is land, family, your job or all of the above. That role is a big deal, and not to be taken lightly. We have seen the devastation that takes place when the role of preserving is corrupted. Women suffer, children suffer and the world is generally worse off. This world needs men who will take the role seriously, who will not see his place in this world as a place of power, but as a place God has put him to serve Him. This is where we find true life, when we can see God's design for our lives and take delight in how He has made us.
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