One of the mysteries that will probably forever occupy the human mind is the question, “Why are we here?”
For a believer, this means asking the question, “Why were we created?”
Theologians have been coming up with any number of answers for as long as there has been theology – and probably longer.
If we take things back to the very beginning, however, we find something very interesting. It seems God indicated the answer when He first created us.
Genesis 2, the second telling of the creation story, reveals four characteristics of the first being created in God’s image – four things, it would seem, for which he was created.
1) He was created to cultivate life.
2) He was created to do God’s will.
3) He was created to make choices.
4) He was created to engage in relationships.
In Genesis 2:15 – even before He communicates his first command to Adam, God places him in Eden . . . but not just at random, or merely to allow him an idyllic setting in which to live and thrive. The verse says Adam was placed in the garden “to cultivate it and keep it.”
He was placed there to perpetuate the gift of Life that God had bestowed upon the living things of earth. That, it seems, is man’s first purpose.
Then, in Verses 16-17, God gives Adam his first command: “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
It is interesting to me that God did not merely give Adam some arbitrary command and then leave him in the dark about why he was to follow it. Too often, I think, we attribute this sort of detachment to God – that he gives us inexplicable commands that are difficult to follow, for no other reason than to see us fail.
That, though, is not the picture in this passage at all. It is a picture of action and reaction – of cause and consequence. The knowledge of good and evil is something not native to humanity in its unfallen state. We were created, originally, to be truly innocent.
God’s command here was not difficult, nor was it unclear. For a God who reformed theologians will assure us is utterly and completely sovereign, it was only barely even a command.
It seems to have been more of a warning. “If you do this, it will have consequences . . . so don’t.”
But then our Sovereign God gave them a choice.
God reinforces this notion of choice in verse 19. He brings all his other creation to Adam, and sits back to watch.
What does Adam do? He names them . . . names them in the truest sense that anything has ever been named. Think, for a moment, of the significance of this. When parents name their children, they are given a title by which they will be called, barring certain cultural exceptions, for the rest of their lives. This is significant, but not nearly so significant as Adam’s action in the garden. He did not just name the rest of God’s created beings – he defined them . . . and what Adam put into words, God made into truth.
Adam made a choice. He didn’t even have to be told to make that choice. He merely had to be given the opportunity. Once the opportunity was there, the act of choosing simply came naturally.
Finally, Adam was created for relationship. Too many people seem to treat particularly the physical aspects of a husband-wife relationship as something “dirty” or distasteful. But here Adam is defining the origins of the sexual relationship before the fall, and in a context completely devoid of the guilt and shame that paralyzes even many Christian marriage relationships today.
We were created, in our naked and unfallen form, to celebrate and cultivate life, to hear God’s voice and hearken to it, to make choices, and to engage in relationship with one another.
And it is to these purposes that we have been redeemed.
In rereading this post, it seems to me that I have left something out. I noted that God seems to have created us with an innate need for relationship, but there are actually two facets to this, of which I noted only one. I noted that we were created to engage in relationship – and focused on the marriage/sexual aspect of Adam’s relationship with his wife.
But there is another piece – the simple observation that, at the start of his life, Adam was lonely. Those of us who choose to walk this life outside of traditional churches are all too often keenly aware of the feeling that must have confronted Adam – the feeling that there is nobody else like us in all the world. I know that I felt it at the start of my journey out of the institutional church.
It might seem like a truism, but to me, the key to a good relationship is to be . . . well . . . relational. Too many so-called relationships – be they marriages, friendships, or church fellowships, aren’t really relationships at all. They are people engaging in what they believe to be a duty, simply for duty’s sake.
That’s not relational living . . . and it’s certainly not the picture we see here in Genesis. None of these four purposes I’ve outlined here were cast as duties . . . not even the command not to eat of the “forbidden fruit.” Even that is worded as a protective measure for the safety of God’s cherished one.
Certainly, none of the others are outlined as duties, but how often do we hear the “leave and cleave” concept framed as precisely that?? How often are we told that engaging in fellowship with other believers is yet another “duty”?
I don’t know about you, but to me, the joy of my relationship with my wife is far more rewarding than any sense of “duty fulfilled could ever be, and the time I share with my fellow believers – not listening to a sermon, engaging in corporate singing, or sharing in a church potluck, but simply sitting around and sharing life with one another – is such a joy that I can’t even begin to express it in mere words.
Perhaps that’s because it’s what I was created for . . .