16 Dec #047 – Integriosity – RENEW—Keep First Things First—Kingdom—Lessons from Creation–Imago Dei
ESSENCE: A leader can’t lead an organization to faithfully “do right” without understanding and embracing a BIGGER GOSPEL, because without going back to Creation, we can’t understand Who We Are, and more importantly, we can’t understand Who Other People Are. It is only when we understand the implications of God creating humans in His image that we can begin to understand God’s purpose for work and business. Imago Dei means ALL humans (not just C-Suite humans) are sacred, creative, productive and relational beings entitled to be treated with dignity and needing meaningful work in order to flourish.
We are exploring the idea of a BIGGER GOSPEL (four parts instead of just two)–one that starts with Creation and goes all the way to God’s restoration plan for His Kingdom on earth (with the Fall and Redemption through Jesus sandwiched in the middle), and we started digging into Creation with the assertion that it is impossible to understand God’s purpose for work or business without looking at Genesis! Our last post was about Why Are We Here (the Creation Mandate), but we also need Genesis to know WHO ARE WE.
Lessons from Creation: Who Are We
Who we are is summed up in one Latin phrase with huge implications–Imago Dei–“Image of God”. Unlike every other element and creature of God’s creation, God created humans in His image:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Understanding that every human being is created in the image of God has important implications for work and business. What are the characteristics of God–the characteristics of every human–that we learn from Creation?
- Relational. God is a relational being. Genesis 1:26 says “Let us make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.” And then in Genesis 2:18, after creating Adam, God said “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” That means WE are relational beings, and it also means God cares about relationships. If relationships are core to who we are, then they need to be core to how we work and core to the priorities of any organization of humans. In Post #007, we looked at the various types of work relationships that were broken by the Fall: God/Human, Human/Human, Human/Creation, Human/Work.
- Creative and Productive. God is creative and productive, and He derives fulfillment and joy from His creation. He created the heavens and the earth and everything in it, sat back and declared the finished product “very good”. But He also enjoyed the process of creation, taking the time to appreciate each stage as “good”. That means creativity and productivity are central to OUR humanity. But it also means that we need to be able to derive joy and fulfillment from the process and fruit of our efforts. In Post #008, we said “business as usual” creates work cultures and environments that, more often than not, leave people feeling disengaged and disconnected from an activity meant to bring fulfillment and flourishing. We also suggested that only 10% of workers are effectively mobilized–experiencing an essential part of their humanity through their work–their expression of creativity and productivity. The remaining 90% are experiencing varying levels of dehumanization.
- Sacred. God cares about all of creation, including material things, because He made it. But humans are special–we are the only things created in God’s image. We believe that makes every single human sacred and entitled to be treated with the SAME DIGNITY (not more for the CEO and less for the receptionist). In Post #017, we explained why Profit as Purpose, a key characteristic of “business as usual”, devalues human dignity. When profit is the primary end of a business, people become a means–tools of production.
When humans engage in creative, meaningful work that grows out of relationships and gives back to the community they become more deeply human. (Jeff Van Duzer)
Without going back to Creation, we can’t understand Who We Are, and more importantly, we can’t understand Who Other People Are. It is only when we understand the implications of God creating humans in His image that we can begin to understand God’s purpose for work and business. As we asserted in Post #006, people are more “fully human” when engaged in meaningful work that unleashes their God-given productivity and creativity in a culture of Shalom built on Biblical principles of relationships, community and human dignity. To say it once again, we do not believe a leader can lead an organization to faithfully “do right” without understanding and embracing a BIGGER GOSPEL.
SPOILER ALERT: In upcoming posts about Creation, we will explore the genesis of “work” (which may be surprising) and the nature of “work” (which may be even more surprising.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): When I first learned about the Four-Part Gospel/Two-Part Gospel distinction from my friend John Seel, it opened the door to my understanding of faith/work integration. What I didn’t immediately grasp was the importance of the Four-Part Gospel to the effectiveness of the Two-Part Gospel in the middle–to the effectiveness of efforts to share the message of Redemption through Jesus. That light bulb went off at a breakfast with another friend, Mike Shoaf.
At the time, Mike was working for CityTeam International. He was telling Lisa and me about the CityTeam founder, Jerry Trousdale, and handed us a copy of Trousdale’s book Miraculous Movements. Mike explained that Trousdale had become discouraged about the ability to reach Muslims with the message of Redemption through Jesus, and then God revealed to him a new way to present the Bible. As Trousdale explains, this discouragement lasted for 16 years until “God began awakening me in the mornings . . . . Eventually, we discovered the radical, hidden-in-plain-sight, disciple-making principles described in this book, and those changed everything . . . .” One of those principles is “Start with creation, not with Christ“. Truesdale writes:
Every person needs to understand the truth about the God who created the universe: about His love and the barrier of sin that separates us. That message is truncated unless it starts at the beginning of God’s story, not in the middle.
That’s when I put 2+2 together (get it?)–which is a more appealing message:
- Two-Part Gospel: You are a sinner and Jesus came to save you by dying for your sins so that you can go to heaven when He returns (i.e., “I am worthless”, “thank you” and “what do I do until then?”)
- Four-Part Gospel: You were created in the image of a loving, relational, creative and productive God. He created a perfect world that has been broken by human’s disobedience and desire of each human to be his or her own god, but God has a plan to Restore the world to perfection as His Kingdom on earth. Because of sin, you have also been separated in your relation with God, but Jesus came to Redeem that relationship so that you can partner with God in building for His Restored Kingdom of heaven on earth and nothing you do from from hereon will be wasted (i.e., “I am special”, “bummer”, “thank you”, “awesome, how do I start?”)
As prior posts emphasize, I am not a theologian. Another of the very best is N.T. Wright. Here are some inspiring words from his book Surprised By Hope:
Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God.