At the beginning of this year, I am starting a 3 year journey through the Bible one chapter at a time. Today I start with Chapter 1 of Genesis, the mother chapter for large families. I’m referring to Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
Large family advocates (myself included) love to cite this verse as a reminder of what God wants for our world. However, I can’t help but try to understand the anti-Chapter 28 mentality. It is easy to imaging a Planned Parenthood, uptight environmentalist ragging about overpopulation and neglected little kids. But it is not so easy imagining Christian couples who read the same verse and who love the same God as me purposefully overlooking this verse and choosing to not be fruitful and not increase in the number.
You may be surprised to hear that I am hesitant to blast this verse from the mountain top. The key verse at the top of my website is not Genesis 1:28. When a young father shares with me about his temptation to use birth control, I stop short of pounding this verse over his head. When a new mother up to her ears in little children complains to Wendy about never having a moment’s peace, Wendy doesn’t stick it to her by reminding her of how she’s fulfilling Genesis 1:28. I suppose we could always say, “You’re doing the will of Genesis 1:28 so quit complaining!”
No, these frustrations are real. We feel them. Ignoring them would be almost inhumane. Our God (the one who wrote Genesis 1:28) loves us and wants the best for us. He has an abundant life in store for us, and he wants us to live life to the fullest. I look forward to the coming 3 years of bible study to venture into these dynamic and life-giving verses about God.
How then should I respond with Genesis 1:28? Well, for one, I can continue to allow God to bless me with the fruit of children. Just because I don’t pound Genesis 1:28 over people’s heads doesn’t mean I should ignore it all together. For Wendy and me, Genesis 1:28 is speaking directly into our lives. I don’t want to put God in a box and say that He is using this verse to speak just as radiantly in your life, too. He may, but that is for God to judge. If these words are convicting to you, then by all means, weight them carefully. God is speaking to you. However, I won’t stand on the corner and call lightning from heaven to strike you if you walk away from this verse.
The watering down of Genesis 1:28 in our culture concerns me, sure, but it is the watering down of Genesis 1:27 that concerns me even more. Following the creation of the entire universe, God saw fit to cap his creation with the most significant creation of all: mankind
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
This verse is the really radical verse, more radical than the verse following. We are created in the image of God. When you let that stew for a while, you will quickly find yourself struggling between immense pride and immense humility. To think that God declared this after creating the entire universe! Do we have similar traits woven into our hearts and minds? You bet we do. We are created in God’s image, born with a reflection of God-like qualities and vision planted in our psyche.
Now, don’t take my words out of context. I can hear some of my Reformed friends now reminding me pointedlyand correctlythat we live in a fallen world. Verse 27 is not a New Age statement that wipes out the complex and depressing reality of sin, corruption, and a world gone wrong. My point is not nearly as heretical as it is simplistic: God loves us, and he wants us to make more of us. He created the first man and woman, and he set up a process for us to continue his greatest creation. It is not pompousness or pride to say God wants more people in the world. It is the simple truth. It is woven into his plan for the world, an inherent reality that no matter how hard I try to rationalize it differently, I can’t escape.
Understanding verse 27 prefaces our understanding of verse 28. If we are made in the image of God, why would we try to restrict the blessing of reproduction? Reproduction: the very word sounds like we’re making products off an assembly line. Perhaps what we should call it is re-creation. When we think of recreation, we think of fun, fulfillment, what we love to do when free from the pressures of the world. Wouldn’t it be great if we saw the blessing of children in the same light? I believe God wants us to.