Throughout time, philosophers, poets, and peasants have asked, “Why are we here?” Before we can answer that, I believe we must address two related questions: “Where did we come from?” and, “Where are we going?” Then we can better understand the meaning of life.
The simplest answer is that God’s purpose for mankind is for us to have charge of things that He chooses to share with us. In other words, to rule and serve a small kingdom the way He rules and serves His. Toward that end, God joyfully gave us His image, which can be defined as personhood, intelligence, and will, or, the self, the soul.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule…over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Gen. 1:26) To do this safely and wisely is a matter of will—specifically, good will. Because God possesses flawless personhood, intelligence, and will, whereas we don’t, the epic battle between good and evil comes down to a battle of good will versus ill will.
As God’s children, our personhood, intelligence, and will are what set mankind apart from plants and animals, and why we’re to care for them and the earth. These attributes give humans the capacity to be caretakers, to competently rule our affairs, and to serve others the way our Father does, just the way He designed us.
We inherited from Him an inborn capacity to love, to desire truth and fairness, to appreciate beauty and goodness. The ability to think, ask, and be curious is God-given. Even when we make colossal mistakes, consider that without this ability, we wouldn’t be able to seek wisdom, or the kingdom of heaven, or any of God’s treasures.
As Christians, however, we often hear that God’s image in mankind was “blotted out” when Adam and Eve sinned; we’re nothing at all like God anymore. Yet I can’t find this in the bible. (I encourage you to look as well.) Yes, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but that doesn’t erase what we’ve already inherited from Him.
In fact, being fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image is His glorious gift that makes mankind more like Him than anything else in earthly creation, even if we don’t yet use it wisely. This likeness is where we come from. It’s also a deposit on where we’re going—the future glory God intends for us. The life we’re living now is the practice arena for learning how to come full circle—to re-inherit the earth and nobly reign with Christ.
For whatever reason, God sovereignly chose to not act alone through man’s history. Instead, His will can be stated as the desire to be in cahoots with every one of us in a grand adventure. As Dr. Dallas Willard puts it:
“God’s intent was to have a kingdom in which we are significantly involved. That is the eternal as well as the temporal plan. Every human being, wherever they may be, is given the opportunity to enter into a companionship, a working relationship with God. The kingdom of God is what God is doing. And his plan was that he would be doing many things with us.”
To join Him in this relationship and become happy, productive citizens of His kingdom is the heart of biblical salvation. To rule and serve safely is our life-driven purpose “hid with Christ,” or, simply, life with God restored.
Divine Partnership in the Grand Adventure
If you’ve ever seen the Air Force Thunderbirds or Navy Blue Angels perform, partnership with God is a lot like their formation flying. Through a heart-pounding routine of heroic maneuvers, the formation loops, swoops, rolls, and dives like one single aircraft.
How do they do it? Lots of practice, self-discipline, trust, and constant communication. Everyone is clear on the plan ahead of time, who’s going to do what, and who the leader is. Though each pilot follows the one ahead of him, they’re all “imitating” the formation leader, using their individual skills to do it. Even when the solo aircraft are doing their thing, they’re all working as one in spirit and purpose.
The outcome and intent of God’s plan for humanity is similar. Regardless who we are or what our position is, life to the full is like flying in formation. God is Formation Lead. The rest of us are His wingmen, doing what He does. When each individual is on the same page with God, it puts them on the same page with one another.
That formation is the result of Jesus’ two gospel commands to love God first, then love neighbor as self. It forms a whole, like-minded team partnered with God. The beauty is that we don’t lose ourselves or become clones of one other in the process, but retain personal uniqueness in His image.
I’ve used formation flying to illustrate the concept, but Jesus used sheep that form a single flock. Paul used the human body consisting of individual parts. They all paint the same big picture, which we can call “situational awareness”. And a pilot’s lack of situational awareness causes many mishaps. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mrk. 8:36)
It’s why loneliness and rejection, never feeling good enough, or constant misperceived failure are so devastating to the human soul. From suicide to murder, from numb depression to just plain unhappiness, to be forsaken is to have no formation, no situational awareness, and no fellowship even when surrounded with others. It’s the essence of biblical descriptions of hell.
Oddly, many Christians have never been given a solid sense of place with God—who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, or why. We often accept Jesus, then resign ourselves to “whatever God is doing” in the rest of our lives. (For many years, this was my understanding of faith.) It creates a convoluted sense that life just happens to us, and the Christian duty is to simply respond with acceptance. You can hear it in the grin-and-bear-it way some Christians talk about their troubles in the world.
If we look at the Trinity itself, we can see a foreshadow of God’s formation plan with mankind. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons eternally united in spirit and purpose. They’re the inseparable One, a formation that acts as one while each fulfills a unique role in the overall plan.
Life’s purpose is rooted in a shared, deliberate partnership with God. This is the great hope we have and to which the Scriptures consistently speak—not just after we die, but today, tomorrow, and for all the ages to come. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jas. 4:8)
Obviously, mankind has much to learn about re-forming self-will into something more like God’s, but there’s the fundamental answer to, “Why are we here?” and why we’re not left here on our own.
© Rhonda Hernandez and RGHernandezPen, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rhonda Hernandez and RGHernandezPen with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.