One of the more mysterious things about the Trinity is actually found tucked away in the account from Genesis 1. It is this:
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them.
Whatever we say about the Trinity, we realize in the Creation passage, that in some way human beings reflect the Trinity.
We are image bearers.
In fact, this image bearing is the primary vocation of what it means to be human.
If I was in charge of the Church calendar 17 centuries ago, I would have added a season. Every year we dive deeply into the story of Advent, the Cross, and the Resurrection. These are powerful stories which need the kind of repetition we get in the Church Calendar.
But I find the story of Creation to need that same kind of repetition. Every time I study it, I find out more about what God intends for the world and what it means to be human. It is like a diamond which reflects something new and beautiful every time you turn it.
So I want to look at one side of the diamond today.
There is a man here in the great state of Oklahoma who is running for governor under the platform of God, Grass, and Guns. He had a VW bus parked in my town with a pot leaf, a Yosemite Sam character, and Bible verses. I live in this state. I am not talking about this campaign, but I like the three words because they help us see something in this text.
When God makes human beings in the image of the Trinity, this comes with a task to be completed: To rule and subdue.
You may have heard it said, “to have dominion over” or in our translation, “govern” and “reign.”
The earth is given to human beings to take care of and to fill and to nurture.
Being “green” is part of the human vocation.
Yet often human beings see this vocation as an excuse to exploit the earth and use it in whatever ways they see fit. People see words like “rule” and “subdue” and assume this means we can take what we want when we want from the earth because we rule it. Which in this argument means it is here to serve our purposes.
The problem is, the earth cannot sustain this kind of exploitation. And exploitation is not what God means when giving human beings the task of ruling the earth.
So there is a question of what it means to rule. Which brings us to, God.
When human beings are give the task of ruling, this is connected with the image of God. So whatever it means to rule, we look to God as our example.
God does not exploit, God creates. God does not create mindless drones, God creates partners. Gods intentions for the earth and for people is flourishing.
Ruling means taking flourishing seriously. Ruling takes an interest in what is being ruled.
Which leads us to, guns.
This kind of ruling does not make sense in our world. In our world, ruling means having the most money and the most power and the most authority so others will do what you want them to do.
The one with the biggest “guns” bends the world into his or her own image.
Jesus is explicit with this:
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:25-28)
Ruling is not about exerting your power over others, it is about serving.
Now we can see why creation care is part of what it means to rule. Ruling the earth means serving the earth and nurturing it so that it flourishes.
It also teaches us about power.
I have a friend who has a leadership position. When she is not in this position of authority, she is a blast to be around. But when she puts on her leader hat she can be harsh and insensitive and she wants you to know she is higher up in the food chain than you.
It is a very bizarre thing to watch. But it is a common occurrence. We don’t know what to do with power. So we abuse it when we get it. Authority becomes more about asserting yourself and your position than it is about serving and human flourishing.
I think our churches have mixed this up too. Our leadership structures often reflect this “gun-like” power.
I have this position, so you better do what I say.
And when people do what we say, we feel important.
The Church itself does this as well. We assume it is our job to bend the culture to our way of living rather than loving and serving those around us.
We even apply this hierarchical way of ruling to the Trinity: God rules over the other two as they bow to His will.
Yet this is the opposite point of the Trinity. The Trinity is a relationship where one constantly uses power and influence to point to the others.
I think we need new models of power and ruling. And the Trinity is a good place to start.
We need to learn how to rule like God. It is what we were made to do.
We need to learn neither the earth or the people we come in contact with exists for our exploitation/manipulation/coercion/violence in order for them to do our will.
Our job as Christians was given to use from the very beginning: We love and serve all of creation so that the earth and human beings flourish.
And when we do this, we reflect the beautiful and mysterious image of God.