Why are we here?
This is a fundamental worldview question with which mankind has wrestled since the beginning. Although we ourselves are mammals, and although we share many similar qualities with certain other mammals, when I look around, I can tell there is something unique about human beings. I have heard people say that the only characteristic separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our intelligence. Yet there are animals that are extremely intelligent and community oriented, just like us. (And according to others, humans are only the third smartest race on the planet…)
So what is it that really separates man from beast? I believe the answer to this question is also the answer to the original question: the Imago Dei, or the Image of God for you non-Latin speakers.
It is true that humanity is closely linked with the rest of the animal kingdom. Mammals and humans were created on the same day. Genesis 1:20 even says that all the animals have the “breath of life” in them – the same breath given to Adam.
The real difference comes when God says, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”
Ok, so humans made in the image of the Creator. This is something new, something special. God actually stepped back for a moment, looked at all He had created, and decided to create beings to bear his image to the rest of creation. Well, why?
Apparently, being one of God’s mini-me’s comes with a job description: “They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground”…Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
I chose the New Living Translation for this passage. Unfortunately, the job description/blessing given in these verses has been misinterpreted and abused. People used to understand “rule over/have dominion over” as permission to do with the earth and the animals as we saw fit…and we see how well that worked out. The world is not ours to do with as we please. As the NLT puts it, we are to reign over and govern the rest of creation.
Think of it as a prime minister/ambassador/vassal king position. We are ruling, watching over, and tending to that which ultimately belongs to someone else. We have been given the charge to participate with the Creator in the creative process by tending to, caring for, and governing the rest of creation.
There are other aspects to the Imago Dei which I will explore later, but first I wanted to address the most obvious side of the image of God. Each and every one of us continues to bear the image of the Creator to the rest of creation. Are we making every effort to live up to that image?
Or are we living as though we have no responsibility to the world around us? Are we healing or destroying? Are we creating or killing? Are we caring or exploiting?
In every aspect of our lives, we should be striving to bear proudly the image of the One who lovingly created it all.
Why are we here?