As a pastor, I often get questions of a more theological nature. Thursdays are the day I like to post some on the blog. Enjoy!
QUESTION: Why would God create us if He knew we would fail? Isn’t that setting us up for failure and pain?
I’ve never been a good visual artist.
I remember growing up, I would try to draw or paint and it would turn out okay, but not great. Self-portraits looked more like caricatures, landscapes looked more like impressionist works and technical drawings looked…well just technically wrong. My problem was not a lack of vision. It was a lack of skill in creating something in the image I intended.
The goal of art is that the product lives up to the image the artist imagined.
In the beginning of the human story, we see an interesting statement about God’s work in creating mankind.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” -Genesis 1:26-28
SO God created humanity “in His image.” In a sense, we were created as a sort of “self-portrait” of God. A self-portrait isn’t the same as the artist, it’s a representation. It doesn’t have ALL of the characteristics of the artist, but it has many, and the more qualities the creator and creation share, the greater the portrait.
Now, before going any further, we must remember an essential truth. The central idea to understanding God and His ways is simply this:
God is totally and rightfully focused on His glory.
After all, is it not right that the thing that is most glorious (God) should be most glorified? If God was NOT consumed with His glory then He would be evil, because nothing is more glorious than Him. (“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. -Isaiah 48:11)
God’s desire in creating humanity was not that He was lonely or incomplete. He wasn’t bored and looking for someone to talk to. He wasn’t angry and looking for someone to smite. (“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” -Acts 17:24-25)
God created humanity so that He might display His glory in profound ways, and one of the ways He chose to do that was by creating us in His image, with many of His attributes. (“…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” -Isaiah 43:7)
Yes, God knew humanity would rebel against Him, because part of what it means to be made in His image is that we have the freedom to choose our path. He knew we would fail, would fall, would experience sadness and pain as we harmed one another and raged against Him. Yet, He also knew that was not all we would do.
He knew many would display His glory by responding to His gift of salvation through the cross of Christ.
He knew many would display His glory by following Jesus as living examples of the love of God.
He knew many would display His glory even by refusing to worship Him, and thus demonstrating His perfect justice by receiving His wrath.
Yes, God knew that we would not live up to His standard of perfection, but to deny us a choice would have been to lessen the reflection of His image in us, producing a lesser portrait and a lesser glory.
That’s not all.
Throughout the Scriptures we find the consistent affirmation that God is not just loving, but He is love. (1 John 4:8) Part of being made in His image includes our capacity to love, and His great desire was that we would choose to love Him as a response to His glory and goodness.
Obviously, we didn’t.
Yet, for Him to force us to “love” Him would not only violate the image of God He placed within us, but it would not be love at all, for true choice is crucial for true love. For Him to create beings that had the freedom to respond to His love by loving Him in return, they would also have to have the ability to choose to not love Him.
And so, here we are.
Sometimes I’m tempted to look at the history of humanity and see the pain, the struggle, the war and injustice, and to wonder why God would bother creating us if He knew such things would be a part of our experience.
Yet, then I look at the spark of life in the eyes of a newborn child, see a new mother holding her precious bundle of joy, hear a father exclaim how excited he is to finally meet his new baby, and it reminds me of something.
Every parent knows their child will struggle, will suffer. We know there will be hurt and difficulty for each new baby born, but that’s not all there will be.
There will also be moments unfathomable joy.
There will also be seasons of unshakable resolve.
There will also be profound effects for good in the world that each little life will trigger, and that is a beautiful thing.
It makes me wonder, then, if that might just be the way God feels about us, about me, about you.
Your life is worth it to God, as is mine.
May we make it our mission to live like it.