On October the 17th, the sermon covered the classic ‘bona’ or goods of marriage as first articulated by Augustine. These goods are extremely helpful, but they are not exhaustive. In this post, I want to draw our another important ‘good,’ one related to the imago Dei — the image of God within us.
As I covered at length in a sermon series about the human condition (see here), we were originally made in the image of God (imago Dei) and we are called to reflect the image of Christ (imago Christi). Over the centuries, Christians have debated what it means to be “made in the image of God.” I argue that, based on what we read in Genesis 1 & 2, we can discern two primary facets of what it means to be made in God’s image: relationship and mission.
First, we are made in the image of a relational God. God is inherently in relationship with Godself—Father, Son, & Spirit. Some of this relationality seems to revealed in the language of Genesis 1:26 — Let us make humankind in our image. Additionally, God makes us in relationship from the get-go — in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Taken together, we can assume that we are made in, through, and for relationship.
Second, we are made in the image of a missional God. From the very beginning, God was on a mission. Even before the Fall and even before Christ’s return (and the missional call of Matthew 28), we see that God has designs and purposes for his creation. AND, he calls people to be involved in those purposes — “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion …” From the get-go, we have responsibilities. We don’t get them only from Christ in Matthew 28 or Acts 1. The people of God are commissioned from day 1 to participate in God’s purposes, whether original or redemptive.
So, what does all this have to do with marriage?? … Well, everything!
Male and Female are put together not just for the sake of procreation, fidelity, and a sacred bond that puts Christ’s cosmic plans on display, but also for relationship and mission.
The relational part is obvious. Our relationship with our spouse helps us fulfill our original design. We are made in the image of a relational God and designed to be in relationship with God and others. Male and female he created us … this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh … two become one flesh.
Sometimes, we lose sight of the other part: the missional part. The goal of being a family is NOT to simply to be in relationship and enjoy each other’s company. That’s not a biblical principle even though it’s a cultural principle in 21st century America. Rather, you are put together as male and female in order to have responsibility and to do work together. The work of raising kids, sure. But also the work of the work of God’s ongoing mission in the world. In some ways, we can do mission better without a family (After all, one of the most influential, fruit-bearing Christians of the 20th century was a celibate woman from Calcutta!). But in many other ways, it is precisely through and with a family that we are able to fulfill God’s vocation for us in the world. Two together can accomplish more than one (Ecc. 4:9–12) And when God’s at the center of it (that third strand), then we can really do Christ-centered work in the world!!!!!
But we often get confused and think family is just for the sake of relationship. Perhaps you will recall that I preached on I Corinthians 10:1-22 on July 4th (watch or listen here). In the sermon, I talked about how the Lord’s Table confronts our idols, and I mentioned a few of those idols, including the nuclear family. The sermon from October 17 goes hand-in-glove with that message. If we adhere to Genesis 1 & 2 in a faithful manner, we will see that one of the ‘goods’ of marriage is the fulfillment of the imago Dei — both relationship and mission.
May God give us guidance & grace as each of us seeks to live into that original design.