26Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our form, according to our appearance, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of heaven and the cattle and over all the earth, and over all the moving creatures that move on the earth.” 27And God created humanity in his form. He created it in the form of God. He created them male and female. — Genesis 1:26-27 (TFBV)
Jody and I were discussing our children the other day, and we noted how the next two generations all have blue eyes. Now it’s important to note, for those who don’t know, that these are my stepchildren, since I’m talking about genetics. They’re mom and dad, however, both have brown eyes. Now as I understand genetics, it’s likely that both parents had recessive genes for blue eyes, but by various combinations, everyone ended up with blue eyes in the third generation.
Now what’s so important about that? In one sense, nothing. We won’t love our grandchildren any less or more because of the color of their eyes. But in another sense, I think it tells us something about the principles of God’s kingdom.
In the passage I quoted, you’re probably used to seeing the word â€œimageâ€ where I used form. Some people debate over whether this is a physical or a spiritual form, but that is not my main point here. In Genesis one, we are also told that creatures will produce â€œafter their kind.â€ I’m reminded of that phrase each time I take our dog Barnabas for a walk in our neighborhood. Now Barnabas is a Shih Tzu, and he’s quite small, but he thinks he can pretty much take on any dog who wants to challenge him.
He’s ready to go after German Shepherds and Labradors without hesitation. Across the street there’s a standard Poodle several times his size who particularly irritates him. Perhaps it’s the notion that something with the name â€œPoodleâ€ would challenge him!
But in that same yard, there’s a Great Dane. This dog is big. He looks over the fence sort of like a horse. When he first saw that dog and heard his deep bass â€œWoof!â€ Barnabas realized he was out of his depth. He didn’t trust that fence. He cowered down to the ground and tried to persuade me that his walk was over and it was time to head homeâ€”fast!
What a variety of dogs we have, after their kind. Humans similarly reproduce â€œafter their kind,â€ but again what a variety of kinds. Each new child results from a mix and match of genetic material from both parents, and then develops from a wide variety of experiences in its life.
It seems that God is satisfied with things that don’t exactly come out of the same mold, even though they are of the same kind, or come bear the same image (or form). We humans, on the other hand, are especially pleased by having things made exactly the same, over and over. We have invented the assembly line, after all!
And what devotional thought might come out of all of this? Well, we’ve been thinking about how some of the principles of the natural world apply spiritually. God illustrates his love for us through sexual passion. Just consider the Song of Songs! And I think God illustrates his will for each of our lives through his own principles of reproduction. Biological reproduction doesn’t work as though multiple copies come out of a mold. Scientists have learned to come very close to this through cloning, but God’s natural world doesn’t work that way.
God’s spiritual children don’t come out of a mold either. They are made, and recreated, in God’s image, but not stamped from a mold. As parents, whether physically of our own children, or spiritually of those we have brought to Christ, it’s very easy for us to want to treat our offspring as though they came from a mold, or at least as though they might be fitted into a mold.
We imagine futures for our children, and then we push and push to get them to follow the right path toward that future. But what is that is not what they want? What if that is not what God wants for them?
Many times someone has prayed for me, and I hear a prayer that I’ll become more outgoing, or more physical, or less intellectual, or that I’ll have a simpler faith. Now I’m willing to take each of those things to God and check them out, but I’m pretty sure God made me the way that I am. There are certainly areas in which I need to grow, but God doesn’t need to make my personality more like someone else’s. I don’t worry about the prayers, though, because I believe God can answer prayers ever so much better than we can pray them. And humorously enough, each of those prayers can be matched by other prayers asking God to do precisely the opposite!
Pastors, teachers, parents, evangelistsâ€”everyone who has children, spiritually or physicallyâ€”how about giving those children a present this Christmas? Turn them over to God. Teach, guide, inform, assist. But don’t stamp them from a mold.