As my oldest anticipates his senior year in high school, we have talked often about his plans for college, a major to study, and a potential career track. We all see the particular gifts and interests that make him suitable for what he thinks he wants to do. During this process I realized something important: no matter what he chooses to do with his life, he will in one way or another participate in reflecting or restoring the image of God to the earth.
What do I mean by that?
Our Original Mandate
We must start with creation and fast-forward. When God created the earth and its creatures, he deemed them “good” (Gen 1:3–25). When he fashioned the man and woman, his wording changed:
“God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
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. . . And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:27–28, 31 emphasis added).
So humanity was created in God’s image, then commanded to fill and subdue the earth. As image-bearers of the Holy One, the first people enjoyed an intimate relationship with God until sin broke that bond. Though they remained image-bearers, God’s image in humanity was defaced. In Genesis 3, God confronted them with their sin and described the consequences: enmity between humans and animals, between men and women (especially in marriage), and between humans and the ground that must produce the food they need to survive. As they sinned with food, so they would suffer in obtaining it. As their progeny, we live in a world tainted by sin:
- Relationships (Cain and Abel: From resentment to divorce, bullying to murder, we don’t get along.)
- Illness (Drunken Noah, leprous Naaman: As the natural world decays, and as we make poor choices, our bodies suffer the consequences.)
- Natural disasters (The Great Flood: Think climate change, pollution, superstorms.)
- Power struggles (The entire book of Judges: A “me first” mentality rejects God’s way. Justice remains elusive.)
- Fear (Gideon, Peter: Protecting ourselves instead of pursuing God’s best.)
- Conflict (Jacob and Esau: War, playground fights, sibling rivalry, etc.)
Humanity has rejected the life God originally intended by insisting on doing it our way. The “me first, make-a-name-for-myself” rebellious attitude regenerates in each baby to this day (said every mother everywhere). But God stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ, providing a way back to him. He still loves us and seeks relationship with us. And, despite our innate self-centeredness, we want the same thing with him.
Our greatest longing is for the return of Christ (whether we think so or not), for with him will come shalom:
Peace, wholeness, harmony, justice, love.
The whole world wants to experience this. But without Christ, we don’t have the means to grasp it, to revive it, to bring redemption back to earth. In its purest form, shalom will only come when Christ returns to establish his forever kingdom.
But in the meantime, his people are called to bring the kingdom to earth—now. And that’s where my kids’ future careers come in.