Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Caretakers - Genesis 1:26 & 28

Today we fight pornography by learning how it damages our ability to fulfill the first purpose that God gave people: to be caretakers of the earth. This is another chapter in our Origins Bible study series, learning about our basic human needs, drives and purposes and how pornography harms them all. 

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." ... God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:26, 28

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃  ... וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ וּרְד֞וּ בִּדְגַ֤ת הַיָּם֙ וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

The first purpose that God gave to people was to rule over the earth and subdue it. God created an orderly world out of chaos and nothingness – but He created it wild. Then he gave people the task of creating order out of this wildness. 

This task was given to the first man and the first woman together. This is obvious from verse 26, in which the plural verb “let them rule” includes the man and the woman. Together they were meant to rule over all the living creatures of the earth. As bearers of the image of God, men and women are elevated above the other living things, and given the responsibility to “rule” over them.

This mandate to rule was passed down from Adam and Eve to each one of us today. But what does it mean to “rule?” Does this mean selfishly bending all of nature to serve my needs? If we look at those in power in the governments of the world today, we often see all kinds of abuses and corruption – people using their authority for selfish purposes. For their own enrichment and pleasure, they disregard the good of those under their influence.

If we look at the environment today, we see that the same attitude has often prevailed in the way we treat nature. For example, our irresponsible use of plastic has filled our ocean water with plastic, filled our fish full of plastic, and even pumped our own bodies full of plastic. Our careless selfishness and prioritization of our own convenience has ended up poisoning us! This is not the kind of “ruling” that God had in mind.

Jesus both modeled and explained God’s vision for leadership. When His disciples began arguing about who was the greatest, He called them together and said:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
In His kingdom, God’s definition of "ruling" is unselfish service. This is completely upside-down from the system we see so often in the world. God’s desire is not for leaders to enrich themselves, to demand honor from others, and to put their own needs before those of others. Instead, Jesus taught that those who rule must selflessly sacrifice themselves for the good of others.

In regards to the environment, I want to be clear – human life must be valued and protected above all other life, because as bearers of God’s image we carry an immutable intrinsic value. However, in nearly all cases, I believe that humankind could find a way to better care for the world we live in that minimizes violence to other living creatures, and cares for their needs as well as our own. Rather than allowing financial gain and convenience to drive our decisions, an ethical concern for the other inhabitants of our world, as well as for the well-being of the people who will come after us, must influence our decisions and actions. Can we serve and care for the world around us, even if it demands self-sacrifice on our behalf?

But, how does pornography fit into this picture? Like the plastic in the oceans, I believe that pornography has become an epidemic, a toxic contagion that has poisoned human interaction worldwide. Does pornography portray and teach a self-sacrificial attitude toward others? Of course not! Even the simple act of viewing pornography is a selfish act, that subjugates those on the screen to my self-interest. Watching pornography trains our minds to treat others as a means to meet our own selfish needs. And most definitely, porn does not instill in us a heart to sacrificially serve and care for the needs of others!!

As a whole, the necessity for caring and self-sacrificial love on earth has become greater and greater. Human population levels have reached new heights – and this requires more love and care for others than ever before. In addition, it requires us to be even more careful about how human actions affect the world around us. And because of the speed of communication, we actually can know what is happening all over the world.

However, global society has become more calloused and less caring. Instead of fostering an attitude of service, care, and love, our interconnectedness has worn us out. We scroll through social media and see pictures of babies right next to pictures of war atrocities and we are unfeeling toward both. In fact, Jesus said this would happen:
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12"
Pornography plays a silent but powerful part in the global “increase of wickedness” that is causing our love and care for each other and for our planet to “grow cold.”

One additional way pornography is reminiscent of plastic is in its convenience. Sexual satisfaction is meant to come within the context of a committed, loving, and self-sacrificial relationship – within marriage. Pornography bypasses all the difficulties of building relationships, and offers a cheap and convenient way to selfishly satisfy myself, without considering the needs of any other person.

This too produces a cold and selfish spirit in me, and makes it harder to actually develop meaningful intimate relationships because I’m not used to the difficulty and inconvenience that is inherent in any meaningful and valuable human relationship. As one young man put it: Porn has “ruined the whole sense of love. It hurts me because I find now it's so hard for me to actually find a connection to a girl.”

In short, porn trains us to “rule” by being ruled by our selfish desires, and demanding everyone and everything to bow to our own needs, wants, and convenience. This diminishes our love and care for those around us, and also for the God’s creation that He placed in our hands, not only in a personal way, but also in a global way that degrades all of human society.

But what about me? Will I allow porn to steadily harden my heart and erode my ability to care for others? Or will I be one of the few that “rules” by self-sacrifice, as Jesus taught us?

Our Creator made us the caretakers of His creation, but pornography harms our ability to fulfill our God-given purpose.

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