Men and Women: Their Shared Calling

Title: Men and Women: Their Shared Calling

Text: Genesis 1:27-28

Time: May 27th, 2010

We’re back to the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, exploring further the role and calling of men and women in God’s plan of Creation. I talked a little about the primary calling of man, which is to discover and carry out the specific vocation, career or calling that God assigns him. In Adam’s case it was to work and care for the garden in which God had placed him according to Genesis 2:15. I then spoke about the primary calling of woman, which is to aid and assist her husband in his primary calling from God according to Genesis 2:18, 20-22. But in addition to their own specific callings we also observe that there is a shared called they both receive from God, which comes in three parts according to Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created him. 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.’” So in addition to their gender-specific callings, we find three other generalized callings shared by both men and women: first, they are to have and raise children together; second, they are to subdue the earth together; third, they are to rule the earth together. This three-part command of God to Adam and Eve – and by implication, to all men and women that follow – is called the creation mandate. It isn’t that men and women, Homo sapiens, happened to have evolved into superior creatures on earth through natural blind chance. No. God created men and women in his very own image in order to multiply, take control, and maintain control of the earth in his name. It’s interesting to consider that God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, the Garden of Eden, which already had vegetation “pleasing to the eye and good for food,” according to Genesis 2:8-9. In other words, God had already developed the garden – this little oasis or island of culture and cultivation in the midst of a vast uncultivated land — as a model and example for Adam and Eve. He then commissioned them to essentially maintain and then spread this beautiful patch of property far beyond the initial garden spot. Obviously, the assignment to multiply, cultivate and maintain the whole earth was too big a job for two humans, but future generations could and would be expected to contribute to the development of the earth and carry out the complete assignment. So in this way, we too are a continuation of the three-part calling of Adam and Eve to multiply, cultivate and maintain the world. We will be judged on how well we do it. But let’s explore further what these three assignments really mean.

First, there’s the calling to be fruitful and multiply. Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of god he created him; male and female he created him. 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.’” This is the command to bear and raise children. People don’t usually think about it or get philosophical about it, but the bearing and raising of children is actually a command of God – or put a bit more politely, an assignment or calling from God to men and women. While today less men and women actually think they are obeying God’s command, or fulfilling God’s assignment, or being faithful to God’s calling with their lives when they bear and raise children, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a fundamental work from God. We might ask at this point why so many marriages today end in divorce, or why close to fifty-percent of all marriages end in the failure of divorce? Might it be that men and women have forgotten the very point of marriage in the first place? Today there is the general idea that marriage is primarily about the happiness and general well-being of men and women – or in other words, for personal self-fulfillment. Absent is any sense of the calling of God upon the lives to two people to do his will on earth. If it’s all about me, then why bother with children at all in a marriage? Why make the sacrifices necessary to raise children right when it’s just easier to skip all that and enjoy life as two married singles? That’s what a lot of couple think, although few would just come out and say it. But then that’s the very attitude that contributes to the high rate of failure in marriages today, that’s why they so often end in divorce, God’s calling is often overlooked or forgotten. Of course, our culture has dismissed God’s other commands, such as his laws about having sex only within marriage, so why should we expect people to follow God’s commands about marriage? But according to the Bible, if men and women are to have sex, they are to be married, and if they are to be married, they are to have children. It all fits together in God’s perfect plan. This is a joint-assignment between men and women, man and wife. It’s the first part of the creation mandate outlined in Genesis. Adam started out alone with only God and God’s calling on his life; but according to God, that wasn’t good for man. So God created Eve as Adam’s help-mate; together they would then begin to fulfill the larger and more comprehensive plan of God to multiply, cultivate and care for all the earth. We need to recognize and encourage the calling of marriage more than we do today in order to restore its place of importance in society once again. Alternatives, such as living-together-in-sin that is so popular today must be discouraged. We also need to recognize and encourage the right raising of children more than we do today also. A full-time mom is one of the highest calling available to a woman – this must be reestablished.

Second, there’s the calling to fill and subdue the earth. Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of god he created him; male and female he created him. 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.’” Let us imagine the earth as it existed during the time of Adam and Eve. God had just placed man in the garden, which was a cultivated and cultured place before Adam ever entered it, according to the Genesis account. But everything and everywhere else outside of the garden was still in a wild state. That doesn’t mean that everything was in a fallen state or disordered state. We know that after the Fall, when sin entered into the whole world, nature and all of the earth did change for the worse in some sort of cosmic way because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. But before the Fall, it says that men and women were to fill and subdue the earth. Now what does this mean? It’s tempting to imagine that God is speaking prophetically here knowing that Adam and Eve would fall, that the earth would be plunged into chaos and disorder, so it would need to be subdued or wrestled from its own natural rebellious state – but that would be reading too much into the text. And besides, for something to be wild doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sinful. For example, wild horses aren’t necessarily sinful animals for being wild. Wild simply means uncultivated, unbroken, undeveloped. God was giving Adam and Eve, and subsequently all men and women, the assignment, the calling, of subduing and developing the uncultivated and untamed parts of the earth. Now the Fall, Adam and Eve’s sin, makes this assignment all the more difficult because now the land is cursed, all of nature is under the curse of the Fall, so now the task of taming wild nature is harder. Sin also complicates how we go about fulfilling our assignment on earth to fill and subdue the earth. Take for example when the Europeans came from the Old World to the New World with the discovery by Columbus. The impulse to tame the wilderness and develop the land was good in and of itself; nothing wrong with cultivating a wild wilderness – this all fits perfectly into the creation mandate given by God to mankind in Genesis. But the way it was done reveals the fallen state of mankind. The Spaniards didn’t just subdue the land; they subdued the native American people, sinfully and selfishly. It’s the same with North America. The English and American settlers didn’t just cultivate and develop the land; they chased the Indians out and selfishly took over all the land. This was never part of the original creation mandate, but it’s now part of humanity’s sinful legacy. But the multiplication and development of mankind over the whole earth is part of God’s original calling for man, but as Christians we must encourage its fulfillment within the total will of God. The end doesn’t justify the means.

Third, there’s the calling to rule the earth. Genesis 1:27-28, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of god he created him; male and female he created him. 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.’” Again, unfortunately, we see the marks of sin upon this assignment as we look around the world today. Yes, man is developing and ruling the earth today, but not in the manner in which God gave man the assignment to develop and rule. Sin has complicated things – everything. Just the other day we learned in the news that an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is spewing forth thousands of gallons of crude oil into the waters off the coast of the United States. We’ve seen other kinds of oil spills that have threatened the environment. These are examples of accidents and mismanagement of resources. Of course, the worst nightmare of man-made disaster would be nuclear fall- out over an entire nation or continent that poisons the air and land for years and years. That is a possibility. One of the reasons God calls men and women to rule the earth is that it takes authority to maintain order, even after nature has been subdued. Just because there is peace today doesn’t mean that there will be peace tomorrow. It takes effort to achieve peace among nations, and it takes just as much effort to maintain peace among nations as well. So God gives mankind a responsibility and also gives mankind authority to carry out the responsibility. It’s the same way in a family with children. God gives men and women the responsibility to bear and raise children, then gives them the authority to govern these children until they are grown adults themselves, when they in turn are expected to raise children of their own. There can’t be responsibility without proper authority, so God gives Adam and Eve, men and women, authority on earth. Of course, this authority is supposed to function under the overall authority of God. That’s the whole point of the one command God gave to the man and women in the garden. The symbolic tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the sign of God’s ultimate authority over mankind. Men and women had great authority over the earth, but not complete or ultimate authority; only God had that final power. But today, we’ve forgotten that God is still in charge. Today, mankind likes to think of itself as collectively supreme. We disregard or totally ignore God’s commands today. We act as if we were accountable to nobody but ourselves. But we’ll one day pay a heavy price for our foolishness. We will give an account for our sins.

Now it shouldn’t be understood that anything I’ve explained is in any way contradictory of what Genesis teaches about men and women’s separate callings and assignments from God. In the case of the creation mandate, we have three areas where men and women are called to do things together because they are given the assignments together. They are to have children and raise them together. It is generally not God’s will that a man or a woman raise children alone – our generation needs to hear this warning especially because some people think that a two-parent family is optional in God’s eyes; it isn’t. Yes, there are circumstances that make it necessarily sometimes, but these instances should be rare, not commonplace like today. Men and women are also to fill and subdue the earth – that is, they are to expand their little piece of the garden further, to transform their little island of existence into something beautiful, the way, for instance, a young couple might take an old, run-down house and through hard work make it into a beautiful thing. Whatever it is that we are given by God we are assigned to work it and cultivate it and improve it. On the level of mankind, men and women together are responsible for developing the world in a responsible way. And then, according to the creation mandate, men and women are responsible for maintaining order and beauty in their worlds through the right use of authority. For example, in a marriage, the man is responsible directly under God for the success of the marriage and family. He is responsible and must give account directly to God for the state of the marriage and family. We see this taking place after the Fall when God speaks to Adam first and calls him, “Adam where are you?” It isn’t the woman God looks for and calls out to first, it’s the man. Why? Because Adam, as the man, is primarily responsible for the welfare and well being of the marriage. So as a natural consequence, the man is given the primary authority in the marriage and family to carry out his duties and fulfill his responsibilities. The woman also has duties and responsibilities and authority, but different from the man’s. Again, our modern society has totally rejected or neglected God’s original order of marriage and family – and we’re paying for it now in shattered lives. There really is an order and logic to the plan of God found in the Book of Genesis. There is a plan for men and there is a plan for women – and a plan for both together. When we follow God’s plan for our lives and our world, things will turn out better. Let’s dedicate our lives to following God’s plan.

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