We humans tend to seek meaning in our lives and our behaviors. We want to know who we are, why we are here, and what we are supposed to do. We may not always think about it; in fact, many times we just absorb whatever our family or our culture has to say about who we are and why we are here. These questions prove important because they shape our lives: what we think we want out of life, what we need to do in life, and how we feel about the quality of our lives.
People have always asked such questions; the stories we tend to call “mythology” developed to answer them. In the past some people thought they were made to be the slaves of the gods, working the fields and providing food for the gods so they would not have to work. Others thought of the gods in very human terms, as extremely powerful and immortal people who were to be placated more than loved. Today people tend to seek answers from science, and according to science we are all accidents of evolution, born to use resources, create offspring, give ourselves and our offspring every advantage we can, and then we die. In such a world life becomes all about using resources, avoiding pain, and trying to enjoy life to the fullest until we die.
We find a very different story about who we are and why we are here from the pages of the Bible. According to the Scriptures man was not made as a slave of the gods, or developed as an accident: he is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This does not mean that God is just a really powerful human; God is spirit, and well above and beyond us (Isaiah 55:8-9, John 4:24). According to the Bible God is not just one Person, but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of the same substance and essence, one in will and purpose: in short, one in relational unity (John 1:1, 18, 17:20-23). Humans are made in the image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; we have therefore been made in love by the God who is love and who is one in relational unity, and so we seek relational unity with God and with one another (1 John 4:8).
Once we have unlocked this core concept of who we are and why we are here, we can see how it is emphasized as primary in what God has accomplished in Jesus according to the New Testament. After explaining the great power of how God saved His people in Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul went on to explain how God worked to reconcile everyone to Himself through Jesus’ death, allowing all people to become one body in Jesus, as one household of God (Ephesians 2:11-22). Paul went as far as to say that such unity in the body is the eternal purpose which God realized in Jesus, displaying His manifold wisdom to the powers and principalities in the world which seek to divide and conquer mankind (Ephesians 3:10-11). In Ephesians 5:32-33 a “great mystery” involves the relationship between Christ and the church: it is to share in the same depth of intimacy as, or even greater than, enjoyed in the marriage relationship (cf. Genesis 2:28). In the final picture of what life will be like in the resurrection, John is given a vision of the people of God glorified, and God dwells in their midst (Revelation 21:1-22:6): the ultimate goal of life, therefore, is to share in God, and to dwell in His presence forever, in the midst of all of God’s people. The mature Christian will recognize that life cannot be about the gifts God gives more than the gift of God and His presence. Even though the fullness of the intimacy and power of this relationship awaits, God has called all of us to begin sharing in its blessings now. Jesus died and was raised again to prepare a place for us in the household of God; through His Spirit God will now dwell with those who love Him and keep the word of Jesus (John 14:1-3, 20-23; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20, Ephesians 2:20-22, 1 Timothy 3:15). Christians are to become one with one another and with God as God is One within Himself (John 17:20-23): we are to participate in life together, and enjoy a taste of the beauty of relational unity which we will enjoy fully in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, Ephesians 4:1-16).
Thus God has made us in His image to share in relationship with Him and with one another; God is our heavenly Father, and has done all He can to love us, provide for us, instruct us, and redeem us (cf. Luke 15:11-32, Romans 8:31-39). This should become the predominant way in which we look at God and His purposes for mankind as revealed in Scripture. Yet to what end? God made Adam in the Garden of Eden to keep it and tend it (Genesis 2:15); man is to exercise dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). Everything we are and have are gifts from God, and He has given them to us so we may use them as stewards of His varied grace (1 Peter 4:10). We therefore live in relationship with God to use what He has given us for His purposes, to His glory, to serve Him and one another. Some have more gifts than others (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30); yet we all have our distinct purposes and abilities to work to build up one another and help grow the body of Christ and benefit all mankind (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, Ephesians 4:11-16). Our lives, therefore, are not our own: we cannot look at life as something over which we have mastery, using it to build ourselves up to the harm of others, but as a gift from God, to enjoy and share, and all His gifts as blessings with which we can bless others.
God offers true life in Jesus; in Him we live, move, and have our being, and in Him we can find rest, hope, comfort, strength, purpose, meaning, and full satisfaction. The Gospel of Christ remains compelling after all of these years, for in it we find answers to our deepest questions and a meaningful way forward in life. We are made in God’s image to share in life together, not in fear and insecurity to benefit some over others, but in love, joy, and confidence in God, sharing His gifts with one another to His praise and glory. May we put our trust in God in Christ and find true life in Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry