Mandate: Man’s Dominion (Part 2: Imago Dei: Likeness of God – To be or not to be)

Mandate: The Dominion and Stewardship Given to Man

“…and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26b)[1]

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You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;

You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen.

And also the beasts of the field,

The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea;

whatever passes through the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:6-8)[2]

Both NASB and NIV use the word “rule” to describe man’s God-given mandate to manage His creation, particularly, the animals. NKJV uses “have dominion” to refer to the same.

Dominion is royalty, a facet of the divine image in every man, involving dignity, splendor, and a legitimate sovereignty rooted in one’s very being.[3]

This implies how Christians are encouraged to treat every human with equality, respect, and dignity, regardless of differences in wealth, education, or social status. Under the Roman Empire, men were regarded superior to women, slaves were despised, and lepers outcast from their families as homeless beggars. Christian theologians believed these marginalized peoples are fully human, created in God’s image, and, consequently, worthy of respect.

Genesis 1:27 states that God “created man in His image – male and female.[4] This connects both genders, simultaneously created and gifted, to a distinct relationship closely linked to their being made in the image and likeness of God. Man and woman belong together, as God intends, for mutual dependence and complementarity. The woman is man’s helper – equal in status and responsibility in divine dominion over the earth. Man and woman, as husband and wife are, firstly, relational, before procreational – mandated to co-manage God’s creation before commanded to “go forth and multiply.”[5]

Human dominion over the non-human world inadequately defines what it means to be in the image of God. Stanley Grenz reports

Although at one time, some scholars linked the imago Dei directly with dominion over the creation, the near consensus in recent years has been that in the Genesis text, dominion is not to be viewed as an explanation of the imago Dei but as a consequence of creation in the divine image.[6]

Human stewardship of creation must reflect the image God’s affirmation and care for what He has made.

Eden without Adam is and will remain a potential paradise; whether or not it becomes perfected paradise depends on what Adam and his children do with it.[7]

Endowed with speaking, knowing, and doing, humans express the truth of their being made in the image of God. The likeness of God includes responsibility or conscience in some cultures. As God’s counterparts, humans must account for and be responsible for the meaning of their existence. Often directed against God, this question on the existence and meaning of life is universal – not bound to any particular religion and is true even when religion is rejected.[8]

Harrison[9] tells us to find a task that corresponds to our gifts and glorifies God while serving our neighbor or caring for the created world. We are to discover ways to affirm “the royal dignity” in all people, especially the marginalized – those who society is inclined to despise.

Implication and application: Man, created in God’s image, is to dominate and rule over God’s creation. This is our social responsibility – to human and non-human portions of creation. God intends for man to take care of the world He has made for him. In naming God’s creatures, Adam was authorized to oversee and be mindful of their welfare. Today, our earth is endangered by man’s abuse with pollution of every kind. The abuse extends to all forms of abuse, violence, and extermination. Sadly, thus is the plight of the “good” world God created for us! Each child of God must contribute to loving his neighbor and his surroundings in the least possible way – even saving a glass of water to share with the poor and thirsty. Social responsibility and social justice must bring about equity and equality to society’s needy – those in our immediate family, school, church, and community at large. This God-given mandate is all about relationship – one that God originally intends for us to enjoy with Him, being created in His image. How is our relationship with fellow human beings? Are we diligently working out our responsibility toward each other – to help, to take care of, to love as God wills, as He relates to us when He created us in His own image?

[1] New American Standard Bible.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Nonna V. Harrison, God’s Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for

     Christian Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010), 90.

[4] New American Standard Bible.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Stanley Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001): 197 quoted in Tom Smail, Like Father, Like Son: The Trinity Imaged in our Humanity (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 47.

[7] Smail, 49.

[8] Scullion, 111.

[9] Harrison, 106.

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Aging with Grace

We often say ‘Life is short.’ when someone dies unexpectedly, especially when he/she is too young or not old enough to pass on.

On the other hand, for many elderlies, the days drag on, and time passes so slowly. 
A Chinese saying comes to mind: 求生不得,求死不能. I ask for life but I cannot have. I ask for death but it is not possible.

Such is our mortal body. A long life filled with physical infirmities is such a weary life. An old soul without a mate or friends to talk to is such a lonely life. A helpless and useless life without a sense of purpose is such a meaningless life. A person, young or old, without Christ is a lost soul without hope of experiencing peace and joy even in the best of circumstances.

I pray that when I get old, I will remember to rejoice in the Lord always. May the joy of the Lord be my strength. I hope to be a cheerful person so that I will be a friend to the lonely. Let me be a prayer warrior so that life is still purposeful and meaningful.

My mother is my example. Even when frail, she went about doing the tasks of a wife, mother and homemaker. She bonded with friends; and shared the good news of Jesus whenever possible. She prayed with friends over the phone. She prayed for her children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren. She also often prayed for my mother-in-law and my sister’s too.

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Please Lord, help me remember that even when I am old, you are my Hope, my Peace and my Joy. In You, I will be strong living life with a sense of purpose – to be light and salt to the people around me.

Written April 17, 2015

I wrote this piece less than a year after my father-in-law passed away. These thoughts came when I saw how my mom-in-law lived with dementia and how our family struggled with this challenge. It’s been 4 years since she was widowed. Today at 94, by God’s grace and mercy, she is weak but healthy. She has a good appetite. She is often sleepy. Although she’s not chatty, she still responds when talked to. We are thankful for these blessings.

I wonder though how I would feel and think should I get to live to her age. Not exactly something I look forward to. 😀 I hope Jesus returns soon.

 

 

The Motivational Factor

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No initiative. That is one comment in my elementary report card that stuck with me. When I first saw it, I didn’t know what it meant. But the ‘no’ made it sound negative. And I learned that the teacher described aptly how I was then. In those days, I was simply a follower. I was shadow to my more influential dominant friend(s). Perhaps side-kick like Robin to Batman.. and I was contented with that. I was contented to be 2nd honour in class. 3rd in my graduating batch was high enough for me. A close counsellor friend once observed to me that I was an under-achiever. In my words, ‘no ambition’, easily contented or at worst, lazy!
 
As I grow older, laziness not an option.  I got a job. My first boss used to urge me: “Khah quey poh leh.” Hokkien literal meaning: Be more nosy.  He wanted me to mind more than my own business – check things out. I was the purchasing assistant. He expected me to do more than just my menial, trivial routine tasks. In other words, take the initiative to do more.
 
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When I got married, more external influence and change came through hubby. Sub-standard will not do. Everything has to be perfect and no excuses! After 31 years, this kitten became a tiger (me) trained by the lion king (him). 😂😜
 
Seriously, through the years, as I managed my household helpers, I have one observation. There are several levels of workers – in terms of motivation and performance. Lowest one is the group who do not do as they are told – they forget, they do it sloppily, they make excuses. They do not even bother to exert effort when the boss’ eyes are on them. The next level is those who do as they are told. Whether for show or not, only God knows or the other helpers squeal on them or perhaps the CCTV camera tells all. The top of the bunch are those who have the initiative to do more than what’s expected of them. Yung kusa na di na kelangan utusan. (Those who initiate without being told.) It’s even better if they could read my mind and do what pleases me most.
 
So with God and his children. There are pasaways (the rebels) who just like to do their own thing, be their own bosses. There are those who obey for the rewards. There are those who obey for fear of punishment and consequences. And the top of the bunch are those who do what is right because they want to make God happy.
 
At the heart of it all is a heart of love. What motivates us to do the things we do? Is it reward? It is fine to work for rewards. The Bible tells us that there are rewards and crowns for the good and faithful servants of God. Why do I do what’s right? Is it simply because it’s the right thing to do? Yes, it is. How do I know what’s right? The Holy Spirit is my guide. When my motivation is to love God, when i just want to please Him, when I am compelled because of his love for me – I do what he pleases him because it is the right thing to do.
 
When we were young, we avoid punishments. Our parents set boundaries for us and we are disciplined when we do wrong. As we get older, we know better what is not right. We do not need to get hit by the car to learn to be careful when crossing the street. But it’s not as simple as that. It is common sense to watch my step when I walk. But it took a big bad fall, painful surgery and long whole year of therapy for me to be really careful – look down, hold the handrail, walk slowly lest I fall again! This is another type of motivation. We do things so we do not end up badly.
 
So what is the better motivation? The positive or the negative? How about the top motivation? Love God with all our heart, soul and mind. Love our neighbour as ourselves.
 
Take the initiative. And do it now!
Today is another day to take the initiative, so help me God.
LoveGodLovePeopleDoSomething

Joy in Pain

“But it is still my consolation,
And I rejoice in unsparing pain,
That I have not denied the words of the Holy One. Job 6:10

Job is a wealthy man living in the land of Uz with his large family and extensive flocks. He is “blameless” and “upright,” always careful to avoid doing evil (1:1). … God boasts to Satan about Job’s goodness, but Satan argues that Job is only good because God has blessed him abundantly. So God allowed Satan to inflict calamity and illness on Job to test him. His wealth (flocks of sheep, oxen, donkey etc) and family (10 children) all died in one day. He was stricken with painful boils from the head to foot.

At the height of his suffering in the pit of his pain, Job’s comfort and joy is the words of the Holy One. It is not being a masochist to be celebrating pain. Only the strength from the knowledge of the Holy One enables Job to find consolation and joy in the midst of pain.

Scholarly studies have been done that connect spirituality with pain management. Not only physical pain but emotional and mental as well. Here’s a link to one on spirituality and pain medicine. https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/…/1/51/2460400

“…. spirituality can be broadly defined as an experience that incorporates a relationship with the transcendent or sacred that provides a strong sense of identity or direction that not only has a strong influence on a person’s beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and behavior but is integral to a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

From this framework arises the concept of spiritual well-being. In this state, a person has a sense of peace, comfort, and strength that arises from a sense of meaning and purpose that is often linked to a connection to the transcendent but also arises from these other activities and relationships. Therefore, in the sense that we all have relationships and activities that provide us with varying levels of a sense of meaning and purpose in life, a level of spiritual well-being is common to all.”

Job’s relationship with God provides a strong sense of his being – naked I came from the womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Job’s main purpose in life is to worship God… even in the ashes! Job credits all that he is, all that he has – the good and the bad come from God. His life events are not random. He believes ‘nothing comes from nothing.’ Everything is from God – even unsparing pain!

Are you suffering, my friend? Is life full of challenges? too much to bear? Take it to the Lord in prayer. Cast your cares on Jesus because He cares for you. Job did it. You can do it too!

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Joy of a different kind

Question… what makes a joyful church? What do churches of today celebrate about? Anniversaries mostly. They are happy when they have built bigger and grander places for worship and assembly. They pride themselves for being mega churches with thousands of membership and being globally known all over the world. They raise their hands in praise to the sound of grand accompaniments, with worship leaders in big air-conditioned and beautiful sanctuaries – in much comfort and ecstatic feeling of being together with so many people – so festive and elating. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being big in resources whether human or material.

Yet a blessed church is more than just about the external and the quantifiable – the tangible ‘blessings.’ In the early church recorded in the book of Acts, it was a different kind of joy that believers celebrate. I previously wrote about their joy of sharing their resources – there was no needy person among them because they had one ownership of everything they had. Everything they had they gave to benefit the whole church.

Another kind of sharing that brought them joy is the joy of sharing in the suffering for Jesus’ name.

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Acts 5
41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

So what happened here? After Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and they were empowered to speak the good news of Jesus. Peter preached and thousands believed in Jesus. The early church led by the apostles of Jesus was growing in numbers. Miracles were happening – the sick healed, the needy provided for, thousands were added to the church (Acts 5:12-16) in spite of deep and severe persecutions from those who opposed Jesus. The apostles were imprisoned, threatened and flogged. (5:18, 40) Even after all these, Peter still preached and condemned them for putting Jesus on the cross. The temple leaders were so enraged they wanted to kill the apostles. They were released only because Gamaliel, a Pharisee, a respected leader stood up to give this advice:”stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” (38-39)

So how was it to be ‘rejoicing’ after being imprisoned, threatened, flogged and shamed? For what? These believers had a different kind of motivation – they pride themselves for being ‘considered worthy’ – that they were good enough to suffer for the cause of making Jesus known.

Today, many of us believers are too comfortable living our faith – we only hear of persecutions in other places – of lives being taken, of imprisonments, of the horrors of suffering for being Christian. Yet it is often those suffering Christians who are more joyful than those who are living freely and comfortably. How sad…

So how do I apply this lesson? I need to be more grateful for the things I take for granted – freedom to worship, freedom to share God’s Word, freedom to make my life count – to further the cause of the gospel. I need to beware of taking life too easy – complacent in my comfort zone. I must learn to choose joy when things are not to my liking or expectations. Suffering or problems in life are relative – there is always the issue of comparison – with what or with whom are we comparing our issues and challenges?

To reflect… how do I rejoice when life is not easy? What do I consider to be worthy to be joyful for? What causes me to celebrate? What is the purpose of my existence? Motivation and purpose of living – this directs our perspective and influence us in the way of joyful living. Is it for the cause of Jesus?

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Musings of a mom in the dental clinic…

When she was small, I was anxious when she had fever. I was amused when she dozed off on her dad’s lap watching our taped series of Tv commercials. She amazed me when she learned to point out long difficult words even before she could speak them. I was proud to see her graduate with honours, and elated to pin a Latin honour medal on her.

I often feel like walking on a balance beam. When I was in college, I had to do that as one of the lessons of my gymnastics class. I remember my shaky knees. As a mom, I still do this act, perhaps not with shaky knees but with a cautious heart. I need to balance between being too nosy, wondering what’s happening in her life and being too distant, as if I don’t care at all. I need to be her friend, her teacher, her guide, her confidante.. How to do that? With lots of help from my Friend, my Teacher, my Counsellor, my Confidante, who listens, guides, loves, understands and judges not. I learn to listen without speaking first. I learn to understand without judging first. I learn to hold her hand while letting go for her to make her own journey.

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As I sat by her side listening to the sound of dental apparatus grinding and sawing off her wisdom tooth, I asked my friends to pray for her. I am just here, silently waiting and being with her. I know she’s anxious. I understand her but it doesn’t help to tell her not to be afraid. How to help then? Walk my talk, model calmness and trust. I am a phlegmatic person, practical and not prone to pessimism. That is how God made me. Many times, I am thankful God made me that way. Even this nature to be optimistic is God’s grace. Yet even though physical traits are passed on in the genes, personality is not. Faith is not. This is where nurture comes in. People often ask, nature or nurture? I believe it is both.

Being a mom is an honour and a privilege. The bible says children are heritage from the Lord. Being a mom is also a life long journey, from the cradle to the grave, a road of constant learning, struggling, trusting, hoping, loving and being… Being human, being created in the image of God and being obedient to the call to reflect God’s nature, to fulfil God’s call and purpose to honour and glorify Him in this journey called life.

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The grinding sound has stopped, the sound of sucking and draining liquid continues.. just my journey as a mom, continues. Cheers to all the brave mothers out there! With God’s help, we can do this: be the best mom that we can be so that our children will call us blessed.

Emmanuel!

A Mom’s Musings on Graduation Day

Yesterday was the graduation day of my daughter, Abigail.

What a day… finally… 22 years from a preschooler to kinder grad to post grad… a long journey looking back and a gratefully hopeful one looking forward… all by God’s grace and mercy.

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I would not have thought that the little girl who watched E.R. with me in quiet attentive fascination would someday be a doctor. When she was young, she was hospitalized 3x – not because she was sickly but because of her stubborn refusal to take meds. It often took her mom, dad and granny to hold her hands, feet and head down to give her meds.

In her first year at preschool, we had to take the photo for her school ID in a studio because she did not want to take it at school. During a sports fest in kinder school, I was surprisingly and sadly disappointed to see her seated by herself on the bench. When asked, the teacher replied my inquiry that it was because she did not want to participate.
It would seem that my 2nd child had characteristics of the so-called 2nd child syndrome… the hard-to-handle-difficult one… one that challenged this phlegmatic mom to get out of her comfort zone to do something more than it was in her nature to do. Yet what a transformation for both of us by God’s grace and mercy!

Out of her seemingly stubbornness stems a determination to persist and hold on to her dreams. I remember one time I dropped something behind our bed and could not retrieve it. Abi got a cloth hanger and did not stop until she got me what I dropped. When her siobe (Hokkien for younger sis) Mimi asked: Dichi (2nd elder sis), what’s your backup plan if you do not become a doctor? She said: No backup plan. Only one plan – to be a doctor.

More important than sheer determined persistence and perseverance is her heart to help and heal. When she was still young in early grade school, she saw me crying on our bed in the dark – in the corner of the room. She did not say or ask me anything. She just went to get me a tissue and sat by my side. She is the favorite caring granddaughter of her grandparents (all 4 of them). They all knew how she loved them with her kindness, patience and love in word and deed.

She did not graduate with honors – no medal, no special awards. Did she have any failing marks? Sure, she had. Was she sometimes lazy? Yes, she was. Did she ever rather sleep than do her homework? Many times. In the last year that she had her clerkship, she’d rather sleep than eat. A med student friend wisely told her – when you’re a clerk, you need to choose only 1: whether to sleep, eat or shower. Was she ever sick? Yes, she was. She was so sick – she had pneumonia and still had to report for duty in the hospital. Why? Because she had to make up for the lost hours if she were to be absent. For 9 days of absences, she had to make up for more than 100 hours in holiday and Sunday duty – missing much family time, worship at church and all other things we take for granted.

So what’s the point these seemingly weaknesses and failures? Again, it is all by God’s grace and mercy that graduation day becomes a reality.

On the other hand, God helps those who help themselves. We all need to do our part – Abi needs to do her best to persevere, to run the long haul. Here in the Philippines, the academic journey to become a doctor is at least 12 long years – 4 years of pre-med/undergrad college course, 6 years of medicine course (including 2 years of clerkship and internship), preparing for the board exams and at least 3 years of residency. During times when she did not do well, she had to comfort and encourage herself. She moved on – she did not linger in the failures. She studied and went on to the next tasks. She did not let the blames and dirty works of clerkship put her down. Medical education is not about pure grades; it’s the mindset to learn and keep learning. It’s the positive attitude to make a difference to the sick. There are no quantifiable marks for these internal abstract factors of a med student.

Looking back, I can only attest to the transforming power of God’s grace and mercy, the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit – that my little girl is who she is today… Dr. Abigail Lim Go… the journey has just begun. The road is still long.. another year of post-grad internship, then the board exams before residency in the specialization of her choice.

My dear Abi,
May God use you for his glory to fulfil his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Remember to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Let His love motivate and help you to love others as yourself till Jesus returns. Amen.

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May God’s loving kindness, justice and righteousness follow you all the days of your life – to make you a loving, kind, good and righteous doctor – healing those who are sick, body, mind and soul!

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