There’s a Hebrew word, asah (aw-saw’, Strong’s H6213), that means, “to do, to make, to accomplish, to complete.” It conveys a sense of purpose and goal in the making.
We see this verb in Genesis 1:26–
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
God made us in Creator’s image with a purpose to primarily be with Him, walk with Him in the cool of the day–Creator made us in His image and likeness so that we would be able to share in this communion with Him. There is no other species or creature lihdke a human being, because only human beings were created in the image and likeness of God.
There’s a second purpose here, one that we may less often focus upon in a healthy, non-narcissistic way. That is: to rule.
The word “rule” here comes from the Hebrew, radah (raw-daw’, Strong’s H7287). It means to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down.
The words dominate and tread down will no doubt elicit very strong emotional responses in us. The connotations of these words may conjure up images of war, oppression, child soldiers, violent spouses, world dictators…
Did God intend for us to be little tyrants, trampling down on His beautiful creation that He just a few days ago carefully crafted with love, goodness, detail, shalom, and perfect design?
If so, that would make Him quite nihilistic, sociopathic, and at best inconsistent–to create these wonderfully colored exquisite birds in the sky and magnificent four-legged, two-legged creatures on the earth just to watch His prized creation, the human being, tyrannize it.
Sounds more like some other gods we know in the Greco-Roman or Egyptian pantheons who are constantly quarreling, warring, committing incest, patricide/matricide, fratricide…demanding our lifeblood and livelihoods just for a chance at survival in a good harvest or daily catch.
In essence, Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are not at the mercy and whim of creation (or these other gods), but that we were made to have dominion over it. We are the ambassadors, representatives, authorized rulers of the earth and all that is in it–not these gods, not these animals. According to Genesis 1:25, to rule the earth is another key purpose for which God created us.
This purpose is contingent upon us communing with the Creator, in whom there is so much life, color, movement, power, joy, love, wisdom, shalom, truth, justice, charisma, endless endless imagination, and so much kindness and generosity. And we were originally created with that same DNA. Only in that submission and relationship with Him could we rule well according to this perfect DNA, and not as selfish, narcissistic, cowardly, petty tyrants.
The reason why God has endless lovingkindness (hesed) is because He has absolute power and sovereign authority as the Creator. He is so self-assured without being smug, so self-confident without being proud, so autonomous without a hint of narcissism. This endless love and power is why He gives of Himself so freely to His creation without fear.
Think about it–what are the reasons we often hold ourselves back, are not kind, are not generous?
Probably because of fear, mistrust; suspicion that someone will abuse us, take advantage of us, steal from us, take us for granted…sometimes because that has been the only reality we’ve known. We often hold back our love because all around us there is threat and danger to our sense of self. We have to protect ourselves and survive at all costs.
However, the more confident and secure we are that nothing can harm us, the more steady we feel in our empowerment, then the more these threats and dangers disappear. We find that we are so free and willing to give of ourselves to others, without expectation of return.
In this secured place of love–a love that comes with authorized ability and power to be generous and kind kings and queens–words like “dominate” and “have dominion” lose its threat of exploiting and corrupting humanity and the beauty of creation. We realize that this “having dominion” means we are to take responsibility for, care for, keep and protect creation. It is less about dominance and more about serving. Just as Jesus came to serve and not be served.
In fact, in Jesus we see that “rule” entails a serving, humble posture. Jesus is the servant King under whose rule and dominion we receive automatic shalom, protection, blessing, refuge, care, fruitfulness, truth, justice, mercy, dignity, and goodness.
“Sovereign” and “authority figure” according to God’s definition is not the kings and queens we have generally known or experienced in our history books–incestuous, narcissistic, pathological, sociopathic, full of themselves; with a few bright shining ones who ruled the people with genuine nobility, wisdom, and servitude.
Instead, God as Sovereign empowers His subjects. Helps his subjects. Restores them to dignity, nobility, capacity and sets them up for fruitful rulership. He nurtures and disciplines the greatness in His subjects, like a farmer patiently cultivating the tree out of a seed.
This is the kingdom that Jesus shared and carried. In Christ, our radah seed is given new life and can grow healthily, carrying all the original purpose with which God created us before sin corrupted our DNA.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still wary of the radah seed that is in my DNA. There’s still a knee-jerk reaction to words like “dominion” and “tread down” because of our colonial past and postcolonial present; because of extremists on both ends of the political spectrum, and those who fall off the spectrum; because of really terrible examples of domination and rule. Because, honestly, of the narcissistic tyrant that lurks in the corners of my heart, who left undead, would have no qualms about twisting that radah seed and crushing others and creation to get what it selfishly wants.
But, as Paul reminds us in Romans–it is this narcissistic tyrannical reprobate that’s been crucified with Christ and no longer has voice, influence, or position in my internal or external landscapes.
This fact then holds me accountable to truly re-evaluating the culture and systems I adhere to. Will I partake of or support tyrannical systems? They’re pretty much everywhere–in our school systems, our banking and finance systems, our shopping, our houses of worship, our family dynamics, group dynamics, authoritarian hierarchies upon hierarchies; even movements purporting to fight against authoritarianism can end up becoming that.
To be honest, there’s still a lot that keeps me (us) under the thumb of tyranny. I’m getting freer daily, but there’s a road ahead. It’s the tension that all freedom fighters live in. And I’m not sure that total freedom will come until Jesus comes back. But…I’m actually really good with that. Because I wouldn’t trust any other kind of full freedom other than the one established by the most loving, humble, powerful, understanding, empowering, non-tyrannical, non-sociopathic, totally sovereign servant-King.