Just listened to one of Phil Vischer’ excellent podcasts, where Phil and co-host Skye Jethani interviewed Tom Nelson (Tom is a pastor, and the head of Made to Flourish, a national pastors’ network arranged by region. He is also the author of the essential book “Work Matters.”) They said something that has invigorated me as I do this ministry of (re)integrate and work on my dissertation on this subject.
They said that churches (and the pastors that lead them) make marriage a central part of the ministry plan. Most churches have adopted a mandate to protect and nurture marriages. The speakers were all for this much-needed ministry in the church (as I am too – marriage and family are so important in this world and the church needs to be the solution to the epidemic of divorce and loss if family allegiance).
But then they made an astonishing point: Marriage was created for a more primary reason: Eve was created to help Adam do his work.
They said that what God is redeeming is not primarily marriage (interesting that Jesus says in Matthew 22:30, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage,” most often interpreted as that in the New Heavens and New Earth, the consummation of redemption, there will no longer be marriage – though I’m not sure of that interpretation).
The primary thing that God is redeeming is our image-bearing capacity. I call this God’s redemption of what it means for each of us to be HUMAN. The central teaching on being human is that we are created to be the image of God; and central to the mandate to be image-bearers is to work – to have dominion over God’s creation (see Genesis 2:26).
But – and this is a big BUT – I have one very important qualification to say about women and marriage as it relates to image-bearing and work.
The image of God in humanity has, as its central component, the fact that we were created as men and women. In Genesis 1:27, in a poetic stanza that indicates that the thoughts in the stanza are closely related, God says,
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
The fact that we are male and female is not a small thing – it is essential to our being made in God’s image. That means that this “helper” in Genesis 2:15 is an equal to the man (not subservient to him), and this means that as they work together, they then are the image of God. Image-bearing is done in relationship with others.
I want to think more about women, image-bearing, and marriage. Something to explore in another post!