Living God’s Design
by Naomi Schmidt
God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth.”
God created the man in his own image.
In the image of God he created him.
Male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27, EHV)
In a sinful world, the pursuit of living God’s design of one man, one woman, and one image will always fall short of the holy design God intended for his people.
- Where God has created equal value and loving unity, we question whether God’s design is really a good gift.
- Where God has created an interdependent partnership of one man and one woman, sin works to degrade the design and make it seem dysfunctional.
- Where the gospel compels us to live with love and unity, sin blurs and chafes against distinctions where we have separate callings.
The Goodness of the Gift
In the beauty of the Garden, there is never a question of equality. As we seek to grasp God’s design of one man, one woman, and one image, our fallen minds struggle to understand its perfection. We fight the temptation to feel belittling separation, jealous division, or prideful ranking in the order of God’s holy creation. The design of one image that embraces absolute equality in the breadth of humanity is more than we can even imagine.
The design God established in the Garden emphasizes that men and women share God’s image—and they share his purpose. Together, men and women are called to work for God’s glory. “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Men and women serve together in an interdependent partnership.
The design God established in the Garden emphasizes that men and women share God’s image—and they share his purpose. Together, men and women are called to work for God’s glory.
In this setting, there is more than equality. There is an essence of unity.
But unity doesn’t mean uniformity.
The design is different. One man. One woman.
For six days, every step of creation revealed a brilliant design, a holy plan, and an intentional purpose. Every unique, interdependent piece was perfect. The precision of the solar system, the ecosystems in nature, and the interdependence of men and women all followed patterns set by God. Before sin entered the world, God created orderly interdependence for the benefit of humanity.
So, when sin destroyed the perfection of creation, were the plan and design nullified or made worthless? No. But like sand poured into a complex gear, our sinful nature grinds against God’s gift of order, and the design doesn’t work as he intended. Humanity gnashes in fear, pride, unwillingness, rebellion, and ignorance. Only the Holy Spirit can wash away the grit of sin and enable us to glimpse the beauty of the design.
And what do we see with eyes of faith?
A fully functioning, engaged, united body of Christ that embraces masculinity, femininity, and holiness. Are there callings, plans, and order? Absolutely. These do not bind the body of Christ. These gifts help us move toward a life that reflects God’s design and holy image. The design is for our benefit—the image we bear is a witness to the world.
We start learning about the design of creation by accepting that it is good. It is intended to be a blessing, so we start with trust in the Creator and his plan.
The Flawless Design
So here we are in the 21st century.
There are tremendous challenges which cannot be solved in a sinful world. But let’s start the conversation by looking back to the Garden and remembering one man, one woman, and one image.
We live in a society that resists the ideas of masculinity, femininity, and Christianity. As we reflect God’s image to the world, the way we live gives evidence of God’s plan that men will be men—and women will be women.
- Masculinity is lived in a way that makes God look good and gives him honor.
- Femininity is lived in a way that makes God look good and gives him honor.
- Men treat women in a way that reflects God’s love for women.
- Women treat men in a way that reflects God’s love for men.
- Men treat other men in a way that reflects God’s love for men.
- Women treat other women in a way that reflects God’s love for women.
Society and the evil heart of humanity will challenge this godly thinking every step of the way. But as believers, we pursue these biblical goals. We embrace any distinctions we have as Christian men and women—we celebrate the design as we live in its blessings. It is our joy to live with this attitude because we trust the Creator who made the plan. We see it with eyes of faith.
We embrace any distinctions we have as Christian men and women—we celebrate the design as we live in its blessings.
The world does not see the Creator or the design given by God in love. The world is limited to its own morality, human wisdom, and personal desires for guidance. There is no foundation, framework, or guide for life. Humanity can only look to itself for a solution and rebels against God’s design in search of self-redemption and personal fulfillment. Humanity is helpless to understand the real problem or figure out a solution for sin.
God’s solution is beyond what humanity could ever imagine. It is Jesus. But the mystery of the gospel must be revealed by the Spirit and cannot be found apart from his Word.
Enter the witness of believers.
We need to understand why it is so important for us to live according to God’s design. Is our obedience to the design merely a yoke of the law intended to limit our gifts? It cannot be. Is its purpose to point to the line with a shaking fist? No. It is meant to help us thrive within the design with rich love and selfless encouragement. It brightens our witness with joy, love, and fulfilled purpose as we point to Christ.
Love for the goodness of the design does three things.
- It glorifies and honors God as we do his will.
- It blesses believers and the church because we are living according to God’s design.
- It is a witness that stands out in the world. It points to the goodness of the Lord as we appreciate and model masculinity or femininity. The unity, sacrifices, and respect we show each other stand in sharp contrast to a world that does not know God’s love.
How do we live this? Is our first priority the pursuit of godly masculinity and femininity? Do we rush to the design to seek “one man” and “one woman”?
We seek the image of the Designer before we pursue the image of his design.
We bow in humility before the one who lived it perfectly on our behalf. We reverently strive to reflect the image of the Creator God. His grace compels us to love, honor, and embrace the design. As we learn and grow with open and humble hearts, “one man” and “one woman” will flow from our renewed spirit and transformed mind.
One man. One woman.
Through the power of Christ, we are compelled to love and unity. Through the clarity and truth of the Word, we are equipped for Christian living. Gifted as men and women, we partner in sharing the gospel of Christ.
But every morning our eyes open to a darkened world where life’s problems are complex and simple solutions don’t exist. The gears are gritty, and life is messy. Blame and resentment echo loudly from the Garden. Blood continues to be spilled because of sin despite the one atoning sacrifice. Sin has ruined everything.
What is your response? Apathy with acceptance that the world will not be fixed? Set your sights on heaven and wait it out? Or perhaps you prime your power washer and let it loose.
God’s solution is an anointing with the oil of joy. He washes the sin away and fills us with desire, wisdom, and hope through the Word and sacraments. Grace compels us to keep in step with the Spirit as we walk through life. Unity connects us as one body of Christ that reflects God’s image. Self-sacrificing love looks to the good of others and builds the body. Believers are interested and invested in helping others use their gifts in kingdom work.
One image is radiant.
And an amazing thing happens. Because God is perfect, everything that is right, holy, and glorious fits together. God’s image, his plan of salvation, and divine design are perfectly synced. They work together. His love, redemption of souls, and divine design are radiant in believers—highlighted with beams of light that are distinctly male and distinctly female.
Because God is perfect, everything that is right, holy, and glorious fits together. God’s image, his plan of salvation, and divine design are perfectly synced.
We all share one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. The Holy Spirit unites us as God’s holy people. Just as we look for ways to share the gospel, we also look for ways to encourage the unique opportunities women have to be godly women. We praise God for the times that men can be witnesses of God’s plan for men. Our godly desire is to help one another use every gift, quality, and characteristic in a way that reflects God’s holiness. Some of that service will be uniquely feminine or uniquely masculine but it will always reflect the holiness of God.
One man. One woman.
For Further Reflection
- Aside from corporate worship, how do Christian men and women express or demonstrate unity and equality with one another?
- What glimpses of God’s image give evidence of his design for men—or for women?
- What do you appreciate about godly men or godly women? How can you express that to one another or encourage others in that way?
Lord Jesus, what a beautiful image you have won for us. Your holy life demonstrates perfect love for souls, compassionate kindness, and justice that is completely righteous. Your holy death tore open the veil of sin that separated us from God, and now you dwell within us. Let the purity and beauty of your image pour from our lives in thoughts, words, and actions that honor you. Make us vessels of grace, reflecting all that is good. Open our eyes to see when we can honor your design with special opportunities to be godly men or godly women. Open our mouths to express appreciation for the godly men and women who live with us in the body of Christ. Help and compel us to build one another up, look to the interests of others, and work selflessly to enable others to serve. Let this be a witness of joy and light that comes from willing and humbled hearts. Amen.
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