Are human beings generally good or generally evil? How we answer that question affects how we view ourselves, view others, rear our children, and even how governments are formed?
Many gospel presentations begin with the premise that humankind is sinful, and there is good reason for doing this. To receive Christ, you need to know why you need him. Nevertheless, the Bible does not start with this premise. The first chapter of the Bible affirms that God created humankind good, in fact he created us “very good (Genesis 1:31).”
Humanity is the apex of God’s creation, the crowning act. All creatures have value to God, but humankind alone is created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). A monarch butterfly may spring from its cocoon and fly directly to Mexico, unaided by GPS. A dolphin may display certain altruistic qualities. But humankind alone can dream, imagine, and envision a different future. God built a unique plasticity into humankind to progress and move forward, unlike any other creature on earth.
The Hebrew word translated “image” can mean “statue” or “shadow” in other contexts. In ancient times, kings would place statues of themselves throughout their dominion. They did this to remind their subjects of the king’s magisterial presence, even when the king was not physically there. This illustration helps us understand our role in creation as God’s image bearers. We are uniquely positioned to represent him to all creation. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun to the earth, we are designed to reflect God’s goodness to his creation.
Not only do we bear God’s image, but we were placed here to have dominion over all creation. Here dominion is not to be confused with domination. We were designed to exercise our rulership over creation (Genesis 1:28), as God himself would, with his goodness, justice, love, equity, etc.
With this privilege comes great responsibility. Humankind has a special accountability to God. Because human beings alone exercise God’s dominion on earth, we must answer to our Maker. Are we fulfilling our righteous role to bear his image unto creation? Are we exercising dominion on earth, as we himself would? All his laws and commandment were given to ensure that humanity upholds this precious responsibility God has given to us.
Creation was indeed “very good.” Humanity was created very good. But, then, something went wrong. We turn to what that thing was next week.