Monday, October 6, 2008

The FIRST Commission?

Christians talk a lot about the great commandment and the great commission. But what about the FIRST commission?

Gen. 1:26-31 (ESV)
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish … birds … livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing…on the earth.” And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over…every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant …and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. …And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

In essence, in the FIRST commission, God says:
Show sanctity for all human life, respect for all human beings, and regard for God’s creation.
Have families with children and manage the earth’s resources and creatures in a way that pleases God.

Specifically, the FIRST commission deals with the following issues (that we will be discussing on Sundays in the next few weeks):
1. Human rights (value and worth, God’s image and blessing, equality between men and women)
2. Sexuality (good sex and bad, birth control, overpopulation)
3. Environmentalism (global warming and response, recycling & pollution, political & economic implications)
4. Animals (wildlife conservation, humane treatment)
5. Work (a result of the curse or a pre-fall blessing? How do we balance work, rest, family, and play?)

No controversies associated with those issues, huh?

I think it’s perfect timing! We’re in a contentious election year and some of these issues are being debated. How are you being informed? Just going with the national media? Just going along with what your parents or friends or teachers say? What about what God says—does that matter? What about his very first words to humankind?

At Providence, we’re not concerned with supporting any political party or candidates. We think it is every citizen’s privilege and obligation to vote in elections. But our calling is much higher. We want to make, be, and unleash disciples. Part of that is helping disciples think biblically.

Christians are all over the map regarding how they respond to these issues, ranging from sticking their heads in the sand (no response at all) to coming out as anti-everything! God wants us to respond and he wants us to do so with grace, gentleness, humility, AND truth. We should seek to be like Christ in both aptitude and attitude.

This Sunday we discussed our and others’ worth in God’s eyes. We humans are the crowning achievement of God’s creation as his image-bearers. As such, every human life is valuable and holy to God. From the road-rager who flips you off after cutting you off to easily-marginalized groups of people.

Our understanding of this affects everything.

If you don’t think every human life is precious and holy, where does that take you? It means you think some people are of more intrinsic worth than others. Some races are not as preferable as others. The very old and feeble can be set aside. The unborn are not deserving of full protection under the law if they are unwanted by their mother. The handicapped are pitiful and cause undue strain on others’ lives. Those who have committed crimes—and are perhaps even unrepentant—deserve less dignity than law-abiding people. Impoverished people are probably poor because of their own decisions and are viewed as unproductive.

Ultimately, when some of these people just get in the way…they really don’t matter. When someone comes along and removes them, we think, “good riddance.” This was Hitler’s line of reasoning. Taking advantage of financial crisis and other opportunities to gain power, Hitler was ultimately successful in committing untold atrocities in much part due to a German church that remained virtually silent as he incrementally showed increasing disregard for human rights and dignity. He legalized abortion and euthanasia of handicapped and infirm. He segregated people based on race and other standards of “worth.” He made criminals of many and then treated prisoners without dignity. We know the way his story ends.

No matter how unpopular, Christians must humbly take an uncompromising stand for the sanctity and dignity of human life. When the people of a society deny the “unalienable rights” of life (as with abortion) they have scorned God’s image indwelling humankind and blasphemed God. It really is a big deal. On the other extreme, it is wrong for individuals to despise themselves. In doing so, they are despising God’s workmanship and disregarding his image in them. You know, Satan—whose primary goal is to take glory away from God—is especially active in helping fallen image-bearers disrespect God’s image. We are all sinners—this is true. By comparison to God and his glorious creation it is easy for us to become discouraged, and all the more as we get to know him as magnificent and holy. While we should practice self-denial, God does not delight in self-loathing. In fact, he is offended by it!

I was totally blown away by Bryan’s new take on an old Isaac Watts hymn (that we sang Sunday--if you weren't there you really missed out!). Read the lyrics again:

Oh Lord our heavenly King thy name is all divine
Thy glories round the earth are spread and o’er the heavens they shine
When to thy works on high, I raise my wondering eyes,
And see the moon complete in light, adorn the darksome skies

When I survey the stars in all their shining forms
Lord what is worthless man akin to dust and worms?

Lord, what is worthless man that thou should love him so?
Next to the angels he is placed as lord of all below
Thine image placed upon him fills his soul with worth
What is man? What is man?

How rich thy bounties are how wondrous are thy ways
Of dust and worms thy power can frame a monument of praise.

When I survey the stars in all their shining forms
Lord what is worthless man akin to dust and worms?

Lord, what is worthless man that thou should love him so?
Next to the angels he is placed as lord of all below
Thine image placed upon him fills his soul with worth
What is man? What is man?