Near the Heart of God
“…God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’”
Genesis 1:26 (NIV)
When my dad was alive he was an avid gardener. He couldn’t wait for winter to be over and spring to arrive so that he could be out in his garden mowing the lawn, tending his plants and feeding the birds. He used to tell me that ‘you are closest to God in a garden’. Whether knowingly or not, he was referring to a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney entitled ‘God’s Garden’. This is the reference:
‘The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,–
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth’.
I can understand why people feel closest to God in a garden since they are experiencing God’s creation first hand. Interestingly Mrs Gurney’s poem begins with the Garden of Eden and concludes with the Garden of Gethsemane, which for me indicates where we are really closest to God.
When God created mankind in that first garden, he made us in his image and likeness. Theologians have debated what this means for centuries. The meaning of it is certainly profound, but I think it’s not less than Michael Jinkins’ comment: “Our ‘likeness’ with God is our being in relationship, the creaturely reflection of God’s own triune being in relationship.” God has his being in loving communion and relationship and we have been created to reflect God’s own being in relationship. To be fully human is not to live alone or in isolation, which God said is ‘not good’ (Genesis 2:18), but to live in fellowship and communion. To be closest to God is to be in relationship with both God and our fellow man.
The trouble is that mankind’s actions in that first garden caused enmity in human relations (Genesis 3:15) and fractured our relationship with God (V.23-24). How could this be restored? This leads us on to what Jesus said in the second garden, “may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42), as he resolutely set his face to go to the cross. It was through Jesus’ death on the cross that relationships were restored: 2 Corinthians 5:19 tell us that, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,” and ‘the dividing wall of hostility’ between man has been destroyed (c.f. Ephesians 2:14).
As Jinkins summarises: “That for which we are created is nothing less than the joy and fullness of the most intimate communion with God and one another. The salvation…that Christ brings us is fundamentally social because sin is fundamentally social in its corruption of the image of God in us. Our failure is a relational failure, and so our redemption must be the restoration to relatedness. Or to put it another way, God restores us in Christ to the image of God, the essential being in communion, for which we are created.”
Being near the heart of God is to be near the cross of Christ, for it is there our fallen image is restored.
Dear God, may we reflect your triune communion of love. And may we share in what you are doing in this world by participating in your ministry of reconciliation—helping people experience, in union with Jesus, by the Spirit, the healing of relationships with you and with people.
Study by Barry Robinson
 Michael Jinkins, Invitation to Theology, IVP, p 171
 Ibid. p176
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