This blog was posted in its original form at http://www.Renovare.org.
A curious phenomenon occurs in elementary schools each year as children meander into their classrooms for the first time. Children scan the room looking for their desk, their locker, their space. Then they plunk backpacks down and begin a process of dominating their spaces. Some children arrange these spaces for as long as the person in charge will let them, others unload haphazardly, but all will settle their goods in their kingdom. Similar behavior can be seen on this first day in the lunch room, on the playground, and usually during Physical Education class.
Physical Education, class because laying kingdom boundaries has a definite connection to the body, the practical tool of carrying out the human will. This wonderful phenomenon is also observed, sometimes with shock and other times with elation, by new parents as their formerly soft and sweet baby begins to assert her independence in the form of tantrums and grand declarations of, “No” and “I can do it.” This is not a switch in personality, but a seed that is planted in every human by God.
In the natural world, seeds take time to germinate and push their spouts up through the protective dirt. This precious seed in children follows a similar route, pushing up through protective family members declaring to the world razor sharp dominion. The Bible calls this seed the image of God; placing this seed in human beings is the pinnacle act of the creation story.
Each child has been born with the image of God. Without being told or prompted they declare their dominion. Naming is an example of an exercise in dominion easily seen in children. In Genesis 2 God names Adam and rivers. Adam functions in his dominion by naming animals. Children naturally name and have a desire to know the names of people and things around them. They instinctively know they were born to rule. But how they rule determines the fullness with which they will bear the image of God.
Within them they contain the capacity for relationship with God. As this relationship grows they will learn to govern with love of God and neighbor as guiding principles. They can grow in the reality of the kingdom of God and the fullness of his image. Although the theology behind the image of God can be complex, explaining the image of God to children doesn’t have to be. Children are innately aware of their own dominion. They also have less social baggage that can get in the way of seeing God and growing in his image. The Wisdom book of Proverbs speaks of this training. As parents and trainers of children we are to train children to see and live from the image of God within them.
We introduce them to their relational life with God, while training them to govern their kingdom from the place of the image within.