I like to think that for those of us who’ve been Christians a while, we’ve got the big, important stuff sorted. We know that Jesus died for us, we can talk about subjects like poverty and injustice. We know the basics. But I think we’ve got a huge blind spot. There’s a significant area of faith that churches and Christians tend to minor on, rather than major in, and I think the effects are devastating for our identity and for how we choose to live our lives as a whole.
I’m talking about a theology of humanity. Have you ever felt purposeless? Ever felt lost on this treadmill of life, wondering what it’s all about? We have taught you about God, we have taught you about Jesus, but we have forgotten to teach you about you.
Our culture sells us lies. Lies that are subtle, lies that are close to the truth in some respects, but in other ways so far from it. The ‘theology of humanity’ that culture teaches us is that people are the centre of the everything. This isn’t always overt, but it’s there nonetheless. In this theology, we are the most important, and everything else exists for our needs and gratification.
But the truth that so many of us need to hear can be found in the first few pages of the Bible. God literally gives us our purpose in Genesis 1:28. We are to be fruitful and multiply, and to have dominion – in others words be stewards – over the earth.
We think we’re at the centre – but we’re actually ‘between’.
Standing between God and creation, we are the mediators; chosen to represent who He is to all that He has made. We have been stamped with His image and given a job to do – we are ambassadors of God to all of creation. All of us. Every single human.
Jesus, thousands of years later, expanded on this task, and gave to Christians the role of discipling the world and bringing in his kingdom. We’re familiar with this and we’re taught this. What we’ve perhaps lost is how much this is entwined with the roles that were given to us at creation.
God made the world good. He didn’t make it finished. There is a job to do. We were made to take what is already there and to grow and expand it – to make discoveries and to use them, all for the glory of God. We were created to realise and use all of the potential that is bound up in the earth. To make something of it; to create, to produce, to multiply.
We were made to sustain resources and to make sure everyone and everything is looked after. Without exploitation, without using up everything we have and without destroying ourselves and the planet.
It’s a way of existing.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves. But when consumption becomes most of what we do, especially when it’s at the expense of others, we lose something profoundly human, and the gratification becomes less gratifying. Using our gifts, our job is to take a raw product and make something good and worthy out of it. To transform it and to beautify it. To be fruitful and multiply in all areas of our lives. To see the potential in someone else and to draw that out. To literally be part of building them up and creating who they are. To make community and learn how to live together. To be fruitful in our ideas, our character and our morals. To look after the essence of who we are, and to look after that in others too. It doesn’t matter if we do this in a big way, or in a small unseen way, it’s all for the purpose of glorifying God.
As well as this fruitful living, we were made to steward the earth and everything in it. I think that sometimes we can think that looking after the planet is an additional extra in our lives, something that we can opt in and out of depending on how charitable we’re feeling. It’s for the hippies, it’s for the do-gooders. Personally, I’m sometimes guilty of thinking like this.
Of course, looking after the environment and living ethically is a vast subject that encompasses so many different areas. Here’s the thing though: there isn’t one person on the planet for whom this should be an optional extra. It’s part of why we were put here in the first place. Ever wonder why we’re not in heaven with the angels? We have a purpose here.
And it’s not just the obvious ‘save the rainforest’ stuff. It’s the small decisions that we make every day, which we think don’t matter. Are we going to buy into this fast-fashion culture, where we buy and throw things away like it doesn’t matter?
In a way, our purpose, surprisingly, is to be materialists. To make purposeful decisions about what we buy and to cherish these things and get their proper use from them. To care for and be grateful for what we have. Not to buy it without much thought and throw it away just as quick. Should we base our decisions of what food we buy, where we shop, what energy companies we use on what’s cheapest? Or is that becoming human-centric again?
It’s hard to know where to start, and it’s hard to think we’ll make a difference. But the place to start is in small, realistic changes that we can build on, and whether we’re really making a difference isn’t the question we should be asking.
The real question is: am I being who I was created to be?
I don’t know if you feel the same way as me, but consuming everything and living for our own comfort and enjoyment can create this stale and empty feeling within us. There is no greater purpose beyond it, and if we stop and pause for a moment we realise we’ve lost who we are.
You were made for a purpose. And when we fulfill that purpose, whether it’s cleaning up the streets, starting a sustainable business or painting a picture just for the sake of it, we are glorifying the one who made us.
We don’t exist at the centre of everything, we exist in a circle. God created us to be His middlemen and women, the link between Him and creation. And as we do that, as we do His work here on earth, creation glorifies God and the circle is completed.
Don’t ever think you’re not important. You are part of something beautiful.