What’s your purpose in life? Notice this question isn’t asking what’s the purpose of life, rather, what’s your purpose. Some will answer happiness. That is, “My purpose in life is to be happy.” Others, might say, more cryptically, “My purpose in life is to live it.” There are lots of answers, of course, but I think there is only one correct answer. That is, there is only one answer complete enough to cover one’s purpose – anyone’s purpose.
I know when folks make such universal claims like “only one” and “everyone” in our deeply pluralistic culture, warning bells go off. Images of Christian bigots waving banners against gays, abortion, birth control or whatever, can flash through the mind.
My bias, from the outset, is that the biblical God of which I am about to speak is the One revealed in and through Jesus of Nazareth. From this framework, I’d like to take a glance at Genesis to see what God has to say about our purpose.
The book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, tells us that we are made in the image of God. The verse is Genesis 1:27. It’s actually a beautiful poem. Think about it. If you’re are going to express the pinnacle of God’s creation (humans), you need poetic language. Sing it to yourself, and you may get the flavor.
Gen 1:27 reads:
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
When we think of image, and I’m indebted to Doug Stuart here, we’re tempted to think we look like God. That’s not the meaning of image in the text. Others highlight characteristics that we share with God such as reason, language, freedom, relationship, dominion…etc. While important, these do not directly identify our purpose.
What’s intended in the Hebrew is to represent God in doing His will. In Hebrew, the word for image is Tselem. It’s a standard term, which means idol. That is, God created man as his own idol.
If you went to a shrine with an idol, whatever you did or said in front of that idol, you expected/believed the idol to receive, bestow grace…etc just as if the actual deity was standing there. In the same way that we talk into our phones and expect the other person to here/receive what we have to say, an idol serves a similar function.
The idol represents the deity. Our role, our job, our purpose, as an idol of God is to do God’s will. We stink at it, but this is where we see Jesus come into focus. In the Gospel of John (chap 5-6) Jesus says,
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing…. And, By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. And, For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Jesus understood his purpose. He did the will of the Father no matter what.
Think of purpose this way. If the creator of the universe has created you as His representative, wouldn’t His will be the “only” answer to your purpose? And wouldn’t it be universally applied to all His humans?
Thanks for reading,