The Image of God—Globally
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.'”
Genesis 1:28, ESV
What do we think about the command to be fruitful and multiply?
It sounds like a call to engage in procreation, to reproduce and multiply significantly the number of human beings on earth. Thomas Malthus would roll over in his grave! We’re already at seven billion people worldwide and quickly closing in on ten billion! Do we really want to be fruitful and fill the earth?
But Genesis 1 isn’t prescribing a simple increase in population. To be sure, the purpose of multiplication is to fill the earth, but with what? The biblical answer: with people bearing the image of God. The purpose is to fill every nook and cranny of this terrestrial ball with an image of what God is like.
We humans are not meant to be reclusive.
We are not insular. Nor are we islands, as Simon and Garfunkel sang long ago. We are created in an image that is impossible to hide away, but rather propels us forward and outward.
However, there is a countervailing impulse within all of us, yanking us backward and inward. It prompts us to keep people at arms distance, fencing them out of our yards, forming exclusive clubs. We even keep people out of our countries, by stopping them at the border.
But that’s not what God is like.
He doesn’t draw a boundary around himself, hemming himself in and fencing others out, but does just the opposite: he empties himself out copiously, lavishing himself on others.
Can you imagine God retreating to his compound surrounded by signs warning, ‘Keep Out!’, ‘No Trespassing’, ‘Violators will be Prosecuted’? That’s not the way our God is.
And . . . he loves the idea of creating other beings, his magnum opus, human beings, who image what he is like, who pour themselves out and into others, and who do so in every corner of the earth, taking his self-giving nature to the entire world. Hardly a prescription for ecological disaster, it is the earth’s greatest blessing.
Let’s be fruitful and multiply and fill up the entire earth with images of our outwardly-directed and infinitely-giving God.