A reflection on Genesis 1:26
There is a balance here that is difficult to strike. I grew up hearing little to nothing about the “cultural mandate” of Genesis 1, and the Christianity that grew out of that was one that had no understanding of the “goodness” or “value” that something like art, or hard work, or a well-crafted pie could have to God. I valued those things, but I didn’t see them as important to God. It was probably there and I only missed it, but what mattered to God was only whether or not I sinned. There was a big, fat disconnect between most of life and how I lived it because, well…it didn’t really matter to God, unless I had a lustful thought while skateboarding, or could be a witness for Christ while playing baseball.
I think an early part of my desire to be in ministry came from the fact that I thought it was the only thing that had value. I’m not sure how I missed this in a family of Christian farmers, but I did. It took me realizing that pursuing vocational ministry (defined rather narrowly) was only one of many ways to serve and please God, to eventually come to the conclusion that I actually did want to pursue a life devoted to ministry. Not because it was the only way I could really please him, but because he had given me the gifts and the desires to be of use in that way.
He has also given me the ability to make music on my guitar, which can please him even if I’m not singing worship songs. He has given me a love of nature, which I can enjoy with him even if I’m not sharing the hike with an unsaved person to whom I am evangelizing. He has given me a love of cooking and baking bread which can please him just as much in a feast shared with friends as in loaves baked to hand out to the homeless in order to share the gospel with them. Heck, he has even given me a love for the craft of making and enjoying excellent beer of all things!
In short, much that is not overtly religious is of great value to God and pleases him indeed. At the same time (and here is the balance), what in the world would all of these wonderful things mean without Jesus?! Without him there would be no hope or peace within which to live and enjoy the earth he has made. The things we do and enjoy as humans living in creation can only be redemptive and not destructive because he has redeemed the whole thing and will make it new someday.
If we pursue these good things as ends in themselves, we will surely not gain them or find fulfillment in them; they will master us. If we would give up all these pleasures for the sake of Christ, it is then that they can truly be enjoyed and known in proper perspective. We will rule over creation rather than be ruled by it.