Human Vocation: Fill the Earth

As imagers of God, humanity represents God within the creation, and that is our identity. And that identity includes a vocation, a calling.  God invites humanity to participate in God’s mission. Our identity equips us to partner with God as we execute that mission.

In the beginning, God blessed humanity as male and female and directed them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and also to subdue the earth, and exercise royal dominion over every living thing upon the earth. That is our human vocation.

Our first calling is this: God blessed humanity so that we might fill the earth.

This is a biological function, and it is most often heard as a divine invitation to have children. It means, of course, that sex is good, and creating children is good, and God wants to populate the whole earth with human beings. Consequently, we partner with God through procreation as we co-create children with God’s help.

Moreover, God wants to fill the whole earth, and the diversity of the earth entails the diversification of humanity. For example, people who live in Alaska cannot wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, or even develop the same rituals as people who live in Guatemala. The spread of humanity across the globe meant the rise of diverse cultures and people groups. This, too, is good.

At the same time, there is something more going on here than population explosion and geographical expansion.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill” is important language in the rest of the Bible’s story. When God called Abraham, God multiplied his descendants and filled the land of Palestine with them. While this involved biology, it’s also significant that as Israel filled the land given them, they became a witness to the glory of God among the nations. God filled the land so that the glory of the Lord might permeate it through a people who imaged or represented God in that land!

God’s goal is to fill the whole earth with that glory, and that glory is not found in mere population explosions but is found in human flourishing.  As the late second century Christian martyr Irenaeus wrote, “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.”  When we live out our identity as divine imagers, when human beings flourish and fill the earth, the whole earth is filled with God’s glory.

Later in the Biblical story, at Pentecost God will pour out the Spirit upon Israel, and Israel will begin once again to be fruitful and multiply. As Israel grows and includes the nations in their community, the glory of the Lord will fill the earth. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, will, one day, fill all things with the glory of God.

Our human vocation is to fill the earth with God’s glory. When humans image God and flourish, God is glorified. And this is our vocation, our first calling.

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