Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist in an endless and perfect relationship. This relationship was also in perfect alignment with the whole of creation – heaven and earth united in fellowship with the Creator. Everything God does is “from the father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.” Creation was made through their partnership and co-labour. Similarly after the fall, this co-labour extends between the three persons of the Trinity in the unity of the Godhead, but also includes us in the process of making things right, taking responsibility for our choices and our actions. God took a massive risk in giving us such a powerful free will, but the risk is worth it because while it leaves us open to temptation and fall, it also leaves us with great freedom to love and respond to God. So He is happy to make us with the ability to choose for Him and also against Him. Now, heaven and earth have been torn apart. We are set against one another, and now against God too. Still, God wants to co-labour with His imagebearers, and we can still do so with Him. He does not hit a reset button or bin everything, He is as committed to the plan as ever before and will call us back to integration.
As soon as we realise what has happened in the fall and how it has affected even basic relationships, work and child bearing, our relationship to our environment and the new dangers that surround us, we hide in shame and blame everyone and everything else rather than taking responsibility. So, God has to walk us through what happened in the moment we chose against bearing His image and started to decide how we would divide what is good and evil rather than accepting that God wanted to give us abundant life. Now, we have not entered into creation as a temple included in a way of life filled with worship. Instead, we have said only certain things that are included in a small realm of life can be of use in worship to God. The narrative from now onwards is to diagnose our condition and work slowly towards a solution that God will need to provide as a way for us to walk out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is not going to be easy, but God reaffirms His commitment to us and will work with any imagebearer who will hear His voice and agree to act in obedience with Him in His plans and purposes for All things. So, God invites us into fellowship with Him and sets up a tabernacle and after that a temple made by our hands where He can abide with Israel as He forms them from a refugee camp into a great nation. The covenants are a recommitment by God with creation, family and nation and finally to establish His kingdom in our midst.
After the Fall, God’s plan is to follow through on the original plan. Just like a creative faces many issues with a project and has to solve problems that arise with innovative and creative solutions. God has planned all of this out and while He does not control us, He works in the midst of our choices like a chess master to work it all together for our good. Imagine with me for a moment if the fall had not happened. We would still be learning as image bearers to image God, we would be acquiring new skills, we would develop in science and technology, working with creation and with one another to extend God’s temple garden to the whole world. We would not be hampered by death, sin or disease, we would face no communication breakdowns, no poverty and no greed. Culture would have developed and we would spread into communities, cities and more. We would have increased in diversity but live in perfect unity. God would still be expressed in our imagebearing and we would not exploit each other or creation in our work. Yet, now that all seems a long time ago, things did radically change, so we now have to deal with so much in keeping warm, protecting ourselves, locking our doors and generally fighting for our survival. The world has become a dangerous place, but just as our choices brought us to this reality, we can also choose to walk out and into God’s plan for us by embracing our human ability to bear His image.
In the start of the narrative and our journey as imagebearers, the whole of Creation was a temple for God and we, His imagebearers, men and women, were reflective of Him. He was True North to us, He was how we find fulfilment and our true selves by reflecting Him in body, soul and spirit and also in our work of extending the garden to the whole earth. After the fall, we now have an alternate narrative that we can choose to live out of and it creates all kinds of hell. God did not make suffering, poverty, war, enmity and disease – we allowed it, chose it and continue to do so in our world. We also to get to choose the opposite and when we do we see order, beauty, abundance and healing, deliverance and resurrection life restored. So, we either join with a flash narrative or the Big story of God in the world. If we reflect God as we were designed to do, we become more and more fully integrated and deeply and gloriously human. When we do the opposite we break relationship and become inhumane and de-humanise others, we treat them as objects and abuse in every form results. So, now God needs to restore relationship with every part of our society and he starts with the tabernacle and temple and then extends to every part of life through the law which was just and good and an image of how we used to function before the fall. Sadly keeping the law due to our divided narratives is now extremely hard and we fail frequently.
In the Old Testament and even now we experience much pain; some is of our own cause and consequences for our actions, some of it we did not choose but is a result of institutionalised evil, and other aspects are caused by an ever present evil that hopes to corrupt God’s imagebearers and distort God’s image in them. So, if we as image bearers poorly reflect God, then can we turn to God and say, “How could you allow this?” Your own reputation is on the line in these reflective creatures that you have made. Perhaps the only solution is to wipe out the imagebearers, exterminate the problem and then start over with a better plan. God does not do this even though it causes Him great pain to watch the violence we produce in the world and He does not, like us, close His fist, turn his back or close His eyes. He has far more at stake than we do. This present evil, which was not there in the beginning before the fall and will not be there in the end, is wanting to eliminate God’s image in man and woman completely and will use every means at his disposal to do so. He is aware that God plans to redeem the whole family of man by sending a saviour from within the human genealogy, so we find that Satan focuses in on eradicating the family line from which the saviour will come. He has no love for humankind, and just has to convince us to join with him and we give him power through our will by committing to genocide, poverty, violence, greed or any of the other wages of death. We live in a world of pain, but this world that God made did not start in violence nor will it end in violence. It started in God and will end in all things being reconciled to God.
God did not create the world and then retire into full-time Christian ministry. All work when done for God in service for others is a vocational calling. God calls each of us to pursue Him in the call of God upon our lives and just as God made everything. He continues to sustain everything working it all together for our good. Anything God does, He calls us to do too. So, we should work with diligence, effort, expertise and in service to one another. We see from the instance we are created God gives us work to do alongside Him. It is work that matters and work that should fulfil and give purpose to us. But it is first and foremost worship to God, thus it should be part of our existing in Trinitarian fellowship as we work, write, photograph, design, speak, film, choreograph, paint or provide within our communities. We do it all in and for and through God as we live and move and have our being in Him. I am amazed when I consider that God asked Moses to have a mobile communication device built for Him. He would dwell and make His tabernacle with His people, in the midst of their camp and this ark of the covenant will be where Moses would meet with God and it would be made with human hands! They were told that they were the image of God, so not to have any other images of God and yet, God asks them to build the tabernacle and later the temple as a reminder that their work and society was to create a safe space for God and them to co-labour together to see His will and purposes done on earth as it is in heaven! We have the same role today. God’s presence is with us, when we worship Him through the fruit of our labour in every area of society into which God calls us, even if like Daniel we are called to mirror God in the most unlikely places.
I remember reading the Bible to my daughter Mya, when she was little and at one point she looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I don’t want to read this book anymore!” A bit shocked I had the wherewithal to ask why to which she replied, “There are too many bad people in it!” She is right, in fact there is only one imagebearer who is in fact, good. The rest of us are pretty poor at imaging God. The Bible narrative is full of well rounded characters who if we approach them with our humanity in tact and at the forefront, actually have a lot to teach us through warning, mistakes, successes and their weakness as well as strength. It is an encouraging book because nothing is censored. God is looking constantly for men and women who will hear Him and in faith obey what He asks of them to do. No individual in the bible was ready and willing when they were called and yet, God was with them. He put His reputation at stake to work with them, and then he transformed them first before using them to transform their societies. Often this transformation, which was spiritual and physical, embodied change occurred through trials and testing, wilderness, exile and exodus. Over and over again these are themes throughout the Bible with His imagebearers. It is worth paying attention to. It is how God worked with Creation, with families, with nations and also within His Kingdom. The same purposes and plans of God are worked out through human beings in partnership with God. He will call us, wait for us, prepare us and challenge us into the vocational call upon our lives. We will have to learn to use tools, becomes proficient with them, pray and worship Him throughout the tumult of life and He will transform us through our lives as we respond to Him and surrender to Him in every part of our lives. If we are not ready, He will wait. He is eternal and in no rush.