Corinthians is the go-to text for Christians who want to talk about teamwork, but the mandate was actually given by God from when, and even before, he created man. In fact, teamwork was built into our very DNA.
Genesis 1:26-27 states we are created in God's image, a thought to keep in mind as we look at some keywords for the purpose of this exercise. These words I want to consider are "Let us make man...so God created..."
So here we have God (one member of the Trinity) talking to the others and he/she says "Let" (the proposal). In this form it is a suggestion or statement of intention. Next up is "us" (the who) which is plural, thus indicating more than one entity is present. We then progress to the words "make man" (aim/goal) which presents the desired result. Finally we have the phrase "so God created" which indicates that the proposal was agreed upon by the who, whom then worked to achieve the outcome: teamwork.
Now let us refer back to the Bible text and the details of the proposal, specifically the criteria that man was to be made in the image of God. Now consider that the very creation of man was one which was a group task. How then can we function in the image of God if we fail to act as part of a loving team or community? By acting as part of a respectful, loving team in harmonious pursuit of a goal is in itself an act of honor to the creator, for we are doing what we were created to do: to reflect his image.
Now some may feel this is a tenuous idea, so let's examine the mandate given to man and woman by God after their creation. Genesis 1:28 contains the command of God, and also the remit of man and woman that they are to be fruitful and multiply. It is the multiply aspect that I am most interested in at this time.
Simple biology tells us that we need more than one person in order to reproduce, and seeing as God considers free will a pretty big deal, I cannot envisage for a second that in his telling man and woman to reproduce he was encouraging or condoning one party forcing either their will or their body onto another. We were to work in harmony by respecting, agreeing, and consenting; and by our doing so we would not only become one, but we would also be of one purpose. Thus his very command to multiply is implicit in saying teamwork was a requirement of our roles here on earth.
It is also possible to make a case for the fall of man being a team effort, instead of what has historically and erroneously been presented where the woman solely is to blame. A reading of Genesis 3:6-7 presents us with the moment that the man and woman sin. In this we read that the woman eats the fruit, and then presents it to her husband who is with her. In this moment her husband has the ability to say no and refuse his consent in this course of action, but he does not; he and his wife remain of one mind, and it is upon the man eating the fruit that verse 7 says "their eyes were opened." Consider for a moment that nothing happened to the woman until the man ate the fruit, what are the implications of this?
Now let's look at what happens after they have eaten the fruit. The text goes on to say that God came down looking for the man and the woman but they were hiding, and so God confronts them about what they had done, and what happens next is the first example of division and disunity between men and women in the Bible. "It was the woman you gave me..." (Gen 3:12) and with one finely constructed sentence the man seeks to firstly distance himself from the woman and to blame God for the predicament that he finds himself in.
Men and women were not created to be divided, we were created with a unified purpose and for a common goal. As Christians wishing to reflect the image of God to a fractious and broken world, we must find unity with one another and with our God. Back biting, sabotaging one another's efforts, gossiping, and causing problems within the church is not reflective of a loving God who with a clear mind and purpose set out to achieve a goal, but rather is an indicator of how far from God we really are.
Tabitha Purple is currently serving as a pastor in the Netherlands Union. She also blogs on www.pastorpurple.blogspot.com where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a creative emphasis.
Photo by Ryan Holloway on Unsplash
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