We are called to create

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God is in the business of creating, and so are we

By Jessica Michele Conzen

Several months ago I had the privilege of watching my best friends become parents. I was awakened early in the morning by a much-anticipated text message: “It’s a boy (still)!” Though they’d discovered the sex months prior, they knew that ultrasounds weren’t always 100 percent accurate and wanted to confirm the joyous arrival of their precious son for family and friends.

As I drove to the hospital to meet their son, I began to reminisce about conversations we’d had regarding what type of temperament he’d have, who he’d look like and what kind of parents they’d be. As I rode up the elevator, retrieved my visitor’s pass and gently opened the door, I realized these wonderings were becoming reality.

Holding their son in my arms, I was instantly enamored. My prior musings failed to prepare me for the awe I felt in staring at their creation, at God’s creation. Wonder and amazement washed over me as I beheld this little bundled life.

This new life and this new family so clearly bore God’s image. They so obviously reflected God’s love, relational nature and creativity. As I left the room, stealing one last look at my friends and their son, I heard myself murmur, “It is very good” (Gen. 1:31, NRSV).

 

God’s crowning achievement

Participating in my friends’ joy and witnessing the high point of their creation made me think about God’s delight and awe over the pinnacle of his creation—humankind—in Genesis 1.

In the creation narrative in Genesis 1:1-2:3, God creates in an orderly, patterned fashion. For the most part, each day of creation follows a similar sequence. It starts with God’s spoken word (“And God said”), an affirmation of God’s action (“And it was so”), a reflection on his creation (“And God saw that it was good”) and a concluding remark (“And there was evening and there was morning on the…day”). Following this pattern, heaven, earth, light, sky, land, seas, plant life, stars, sea-dwelling animals and land-dwelling animals are brought into existence in a comparable fashion.

On the final day, God’s artistic efforts climax in the creation of humankind. In many ways, we’re his magnum opus. In contrast to the rest of God’s creation, humans are made according to God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-28). This similarity to God is what makes humans unique. It’s our identifying marker.  To understand what it means to be God’s image-bearers, it helps to understand the words “image” and “likeness.”

 

In the image of God

The two Hebrew words behind “image” and “likeness” are tselem and d?muth. Tselem means a figure, idol, caricature or representative. Whereas tselem most often refers to a physical, three-dimensional object, d?muth is a bit more abstract and means to resemble in manner or fashion. This resemblance is linked to traits and characteristics other than just physical ones. When taken together, both of these terms shape our understanding of the imago dei or the image of God.

When we refer to ourselves as “being made” in God’s image, we’re not claiming to be miniature gods. Being formed in God’s image doesn’t mean that God physically takes up residence in us. Rather, it means that God’s qualities shine through our humanity. It means that in our humanness, we are reflections or mirrors of God’s character. In our three-dimensional existence, we concretely reveal God’s love, care, concern for his creation and desire for relationship. It is our uniqueness and distinctness as humans that manifest God’s character.

We reveal God’s character and reflect his image when we love our spouse by giving of our time, show care for our neighbor by extending hospitality, reach across our cubicle wall to check on a coworker, take care of our environment or stand against injustice.

Additionally, we reflect God’s image when we engage in the creative process, when we participate in the act of creation itself.

 

We are creative agents

Throughout Genesis 1, God is in the business of creating. And, moreover, he gives us a license—actually a mandate—to engage in the creative process as well. We’re given dominion over what God has just created (Gen. 1:26, 28). We’re told to be fruitful and multiply (v. 28). We’re commanded to create and sustain life. While these verses can be interpreted in a variety of ways, I believe that they commission us for creativity.

This commissioning for creativity isn’t restricted to one arena or limited to one mode of expression. Anytime we engage in the creative process, whether in writing, singing, painting, composing, planting or building, we reflect God’s creative nature; we reflect his image. When we create, we give life to something, whether a thought, an idea, an emotion or a literal life. It is both the process and finished product which manifests God’s character and elicits God’s response—“And God saw that it was good”—in Genesis 1. Like God, we leave our fingerprints as we create and write our unique signature on what we’ve created.

It is this process and finished product that I witnessed in the hospital room while holding my friends’ son in my arms. While I marveled at the harmony and relationship between this new triad (a clear reflection of God’s own relational nature), more than anything, I was amazed what my friends had created. Ultimately, I was moved by God’s creative genius.

As we seek to live out God’s image, may we remember that we serve a creating and creative God. Anytime we, as his creation, express this creative freedom, we’re reflecting God’s image. May we embrace and live out this characteristic of the imago dei in our corporate and individual lives.

Jessica Michele Conzen is adjunct faculty in Biblical Studies and Early Childhood Development with Fresno Pacific University’s degree completion program.  She is a 2013 graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. She blogs at musingsofatheologist.com.

 

 

 

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This article is part of the CL Archives. Articles published between August 2017 and July 2008 were posted on a previous website and are archived here for your convenience. We have also posted occasional articles published prior to 2008 as part of the archive. To report a problem with the archived article, please contact the CL editor at editor@usmb.org.

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