Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dominion

Why do things work the way that they do? Why is it that if you let go of a ball it will always fall down? Why is it that 2+2=4? Why do yellow and blue make green? Could these things be otherwise? Could balls rush upward, 2+2=5 or yellow and blue make orange? Of course they could. Things are the way that they are because God decided to make them that way. When He created all of this He wasn't limited by some rules that forced Him to create in the way that He did. This creation functions in the way that it does because He wanted it to function in this way.

In the book of Genesis, especially in these first three chapters, God isn't just telling us that He created all of this. He's also explaining how it all works. So, each day has two parts, day and night, and not five. There are some creatures that fly and others that swim. And there is one great light to rule the day instead of three. God could have made all of this very different, but He didn't.

Today, we're going to take a look at something that God has built into this creation, one way that He has made it to function. And if you understand this aspect of God's creation you will be able to work with Him instead of working against Him. And working against Him is like trying to live as if 2+2=5. Listen to this from Genesis.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1.26)

When God created all of this, along with gravity, math facts and color schemes, He established dominion. God gave to humanity dominion over His creation. We don't usually talk about dominion. It's simply the idea of rule. God gave to humanity the authority to rule the rest of His creation. He gave us this authority not to exercise it independent of God but rather as those who are under His dominion.

It's important that you see that humanity's rule over the rest of creation is just one expression of this dominion that God has built into His creation. As you read the rest of the Bible you'll see other ways in which dominion is also expressed. So, there will be some people who are to have dominion over other people. Just to take one example, consider the relationship of parents and their children. It is a relationship of dominion. The parents are to rule their children and the children are to honor their parents. This is the principle of dominion.

Now, I'm pretty sure that for the average person 'dominion' sounds wrong, especially when talking about parents and children. It sounds harsh. It sounds like another word: domineering. So, let me spend a little time explaining what God means by dominion. At the heart of His meaning are these two words: love and trust.

First, dominion is about love. Those who have authority from God to rule others cannot fulfill that calling - not in the way that God intends - unless they love the people whom they rule. Because it is so misunderstood these days, I'll also need to say a bit about what love is. Love is lots more than just having warm feelings toward another person. To love is to work hard for the benefit of another, to sacrifice, if necessary, so that the one who is being loved can flourish. To love is to care for someone because you care about that person. You want that person to thrive. This is how God has defined 'to have dominion'. It's all tied up with the call to do the hard work of love.

This is where it's important to remember that we are to exercise this dominion as those under God's dominion. The gift of dominion does not mean that you get to rule in whatever way you want. You are to love those you rule. God will hold accountable those to whom He has given dominion. There will be an evaluation on the Last Day. Here's a verse that illustrates this in one kind of dominion. This is James writing about being a pastor.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Those who are teachers in the church, those to whom God has given dominion, will be held accountable for that calling. Because of the nature of that calling, God's evaluation will be very strict, stricter than His evaluation of other callings. And here are the kinds of questions that God will pose at that evaluation. Did you love the people that I placed in your care? Did you do all that was necessary so that they flourished? What did you sacrifice for them? Did they thrive?

Wherever there is the grant of dominion - whether we're talking about the church, the home or the state - there had better be love. Any exercise of dominion without love is a perversion. In fact, it is not dominion but rather tyranny. And God will hold such people accountable.

Then, there's the other word, trust. Those under authority need to be able to say, 'I will yield to your dominion over me because I trust you.' Proper expression of dominion will never happen if those under authority do not trust those whom God has given dominion over them. Where there is no trust there is no dominion but rather coercion. People are being forced to yield. And that is not what God intends.

This has something to say, first, to those in authority. They are to foster this trust. They are to show themselves worthy of this trust. They need to earn this trust. If they do not show themselves trustworthy, then why should those under their authority give them this trust?

While the burden to develop this trust rests with those who have been given dominion, those under that authority also have some work to do. They need to want to entrust themselves to those who have the rule over them. There are times when those with authority really do love and work hard to show themselves trustworthy, but those whom they rule are unwilling to trust them. God sees this. And He will hold such rebels accountable for it.

Now, all of this may still sound weird, so let me illustrate it with  something very familiar. Listen.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God is the one with ultimate dominion. He rules over everything. But He is not harsh in His rule. No, instead, He loves those whom He rules. He loves the world. And this love does all that is necessary so that we might thrive. And the proof of that? He gave His Son. What an expression of love for the world? Could He have done more than that? Now, we here in this room, have acknowledged this love of God, and we have responded to it. We have entrusted ourselves to Jesus. That's what it means to believe in Him. And we have found that He is trustworthy. It is this dynamic, His love and our trust, that continues in this relationship of His dominion over us. The Gospel is an expression of God's dominion. Love and trust.

Dominion is how this creation functions. To talk about dominion is not to talk about something that is harsh or domineering, not if it's done in the right way. There are those who fight against this dominion. But in so doing they are fighting against the God who made His creation in this way. And no one who pursues that kind of life can win that fight.

Now, understand what I have done. I have explained a bit of how this creation works. And you would be wise to live in harmony with how it works. So, don't step off some cliff. If you do, you're going to fall all the way down. And when you balance your check book remember that 2+2=4. Likewise, in your relationships don't fight against the notion of dominion. Understand it as someone who is in authority over some people as well as under the authority of other people. And don't forget love and trust. This is how God runs His creation, and He will hold you accountable to work with Him on this.

Now, consider the world around you. One reason 'dominion' sounds so harsh is that the people of our culture cling to a demand for individual autonomy. Everyone wants to be his own king with no one over him. Everyone has his personal declaration of independence. But God has made creation in such a way that that kind of thinking just won't work. At some point, it will crash and burn. That some have dominion over others is of the nature of things. This is how God created all of this. Those who fight Him on this do so at their own peril.

The rejection of God's idea of dominion is not just out there in the world. It can also show up among us, the Church. You will need a clear understanding of what God means by dominion if you are going to be able to have proper expectations of yourself and others whether we are talking about relationships in the church, in the home or in government. There is always the possibility of failure. And that can show as abdication or tyranny among those who rule, and as cowardly conformity or self-centered rebellion in those who are under that rule. Be aware of both kinds of traps. God's evaluation is coming.

Last thought. Problems submitting to God's idea of dominion are especially evident in the American Church when it comes to the topic of marriage, dominion in the home. So, when we get to God's creation of marriage in Genesis 2, I'll be applying in some detail what I've said today. This is the main reason that I originally decided to spend so much time on the topic of dominion. So, in preparation for that, those of you who are married or hope to be married should think about this question: 'What is dominion supposed to look like in my marriage?'

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