Human Identity and Vocation

Days 5-8 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days

Text: Genesis 1:26-28

Who are we as human beings? What is our identity, and what is our responsibility and function on this earth?

The long history of spirituality, which is evident in today’s Western culture, has included a search for the authentic self. It seems we are constantly on a quest to discover our true selves and thereby embrace, if we can, our authentic identity as persons.

The story of God provided in Scripture identifies human beings as imagers of God. While the history of theology has often debated the particulars of this description, the general meaning is that human beings represent God within the creation as imitators of God. We are equipped to be Godlike and to work with God. There is not only a deep relational connection between God and humanity that is unique within the cosmos but human beings are partners (co-rulers, co-workers), junior partners to be sure, with God within the cosmos.

Our identity is a gift; it is a grace. We ought to receive it and welcome this dignity with which God has graced us. To resist this identity is to create dissonance with the creation, generate chaos within the God-human relationship, and break the bonds of community between ourselves and others, including the creation.

With our identity comes tremendous responsibility. Our vocation is summarized in some brief but rich language.

  • Fill the earth with other imagers who are the glory of God—the God who enjoys enriching the earth with more authentic representatives.
  • Subdue the earth, which is to continue the process of overcoming the remaining chaos within the creation and thus co-participate in God’s continual ordering of the world.
  • Rule the earth with God as co-rulers, which invites us in the task of caring for God’s good creation like shepherds who care for their flocks.

Representing God, humanity partners with God in filling, subduing, and ruling. This is our human vocation; it is the task God has given to us and for which our identity qualifies us. In fact, some suggest that our vocation is our identity, that is, it is the image of God or how we image God.

Our vocation is the touchstone for thinking about how we pass our days upon the earth. Who are we? What are we invited to do? What does it mean to participate in the mission of God? What career should I pursue? How does my career participate in the mission of God and express my identity and vocation?

These are the sorts of identity and vocational questions human beings ask. It seems to me, at least in my own experience, we discover meaning and significance in life when we locate ourselves in the story of God. When we welcome the identity God has given us, pursue the life into which God has invited us, and embrace the vocation with which the story of God tasks us, we find our authentic selves. We find ourselves in the presence of God’s grace, mission, and community.

Leave a Reply