Creation and the Neighbor

As you might have noticed I have been thinking a lot about creation and its significance for us. Many of my thoughts about this theme have come from an ongoing dialogue with a very close friend of mine, Jason Nichter. For the last five years I have appreciated his brotherhood, his sharp mind, and his deeply pastoral heart. He has done good work on this topic and I am thankful for his willingness to share some of his thinking here.

In previous posts Kory has pieced together for us different building blocks related to creation. In this post we’ll discuss one more implication flowing from our theology of creation: how we view The Neighbor.

We’re informed in Genesis 2 that God built man out of His previously created dust, and breathed life into him. This “creation out of something” pattern (see previous post) is continued in the calling God puts on man to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” (1:28). The creation chain is not started by God throwing ingredients in an oven and seeing what kind of creature comes out. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (1:27). God’s design was to create all of humanity to reflect his characteristics, and none of his creatures to lack significance.

God’s intention for his created men and women to be significant image-bearers is a tremendous compass for us in social settings. God created every person, which means every person that crosses your path is important. The Neighbor who interrupts your reading at a coffee shop – important. The Neighbor who calls you when you’re listening to your favorite song – important. The Neighbor fast food restaurant worker who serves you your spicy chicken sandwich – important. They were all created by God, and as such they are all significant enough to warrant your conscious attention.

Additionally every act of service that we perform – whether related to our occupation, charity, or general good nature – is validated. There is no place of employment beneath us, because we are contributing a good to a community of “neighbors” created by God. There is no act of service without importance – even pushing the breaks on our car to let grocery shoppers cross is contributing to preserving the image bearers God made.

Perhaps this is why after explaining loving God as of first importance, Jesus said, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31). No one understood the neighbor more perfectly than Christ Himself. Indeed through Jesus, God was showing us one who reflected the intended image in creation perfectly (Col 1:15,19), and did so on our behalf (Col 1:21-23). He smashes our breach of his creation by being the perfect creature-lover for us.

So trust Christ’s restoring work done for you. Put away your smart phone when your neighbor is talking to you. Preserve your highest attention for the people around you, and not social media. Be thoughtful towards the person in front of your face throughout the day. God created those neighbors of yours. Let’s celebrate Christ by being like Him for the benefit of The Neighbor.

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3 comments

  1. Jason, I really love how you approached this. It was really helpful to see the link between the image of God, the value of the neighbor, and the glory of Christ. It really challenges me to think hard about the importance of our every day existence and interaction. It helps me understand the value of all of life—something I really need help with. Here are a couple questions for further dialogue.

    So would you say that a solid theology of creation is foundational for understanding the first and second greatest commandments? Could you flesh this out some more and comment on how you see a theology of creation informing the first commandment?

  2. I’ll comment about those 2 commands, called the greatest by Jesus.
    I think the 1st is primarily done through the 2nd.
    How do you ‘love’ an invisible God?
    John says that to obey is love to God.

  3. Good insight. So the vertical one is done on the horizontal level? How would you think of it in relation to creation? Following J’s discussion of creation and the second commandment.

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