An Epic Struggle

In the last post we discussed how everything was created out of love. Love prompted God’s creation of the universe and God instilled that same love in us so that we feel a desire to create. Our creating was part of God’s commission to us to fill the Earth. With that, we are also called to maintain and nourish creation so that it may flourish.

There is a certain order concerning creation, a hierarchy. At the very top is God, in His Triune form. He is at the top because He created all things, and, as the ultimate creator, He is naturally above all of His creations (and all of His creations’ creations). We are below God and under us is the rest of creation. In Genesis 1:26 God says to Himself (within the trinity), “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” We have been created in God’s image and thus placed in a power of authority. So the hierarchy we see in creation is:

God

Humanity

Creation

This hierarchy of creation was not set up as a ladder of power where whatever is on top dominates whatever is below. Each position in this hierarchy is designed to nurture, care for, and protect whatever is below it. And everything that is below was created to point towards what is at the top, which is God. God created out of love and love has a nurturing aspect to it. If you love something you want it to succeed and to flourish. Within this hierarchy, love creates a balance of relationships. Each part of creation is in relationship with the other parts of creation. For humans, these relationships can be grouped into three categories:

  • Spiritual:    Humans <—> God
  • Social:         Humans <—> Humans
  • Physical:     Humans <—> Creation

In Genesis 1 and 2 we see these relationships in the way they were intended to be. God walks and talks with humanity in the garden. Man and woman support each other. Humanity watches over creation to help it flourish and creation provides nourishment for humanity. In Hebrew this state of peace and proper order within the world is called shalom.

In Genesis 3, sin enters the world and begins to disrupt the shalom that God had created. Sin is a disobedience to the One that has created us, a disobedience to God. God set the world up in a certain order and sin is the disordering of God’s creation. This can be seen when we as humans place anything above God; including ourselves, other people, and even material things. God is the creator of all things and nothing has a place above Him. When we begin to value and revere things above God, we begin to breakdown our relationship with the Creator who provides life.

This disordering of creation can also be seen when we place people above other people or creation above other people. The former is most commonly seen when we place ourselves above other people. Doing this devalues our fellow members of the human race. It shows them that we view ourselves closer to God, and we view them closer to creation. We turn into mini-gods in our own minds. The latter is seen when we value materials over people. Money is the most common example of this. When we place a desire for money over family, friends, and even strangers it shows that we no longer value those who hold within them an image of the living God.

In Genesis 3 we see the results of sin breaking these relationships. When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and ate from the tree which God had commanded them not to eat from, they placed themselves above God. They decided that God no longer had ultimate authority. They decided that they knew better than the One who created all things. And when they did this they immediately felt the effects.

Genesis 3:7-8
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and this wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Here we see the first effects of sin. In Genesis 1 and 2, man and woman had nothing to hide between themselves. The physical nakedness they had before one another also symbolizes their mental, emotional, and spiritual nakedness. Before they chose to eat from the tree they were equals, living in harmony. When they chose to eat from the tree, they both tried to place themselves above God, at the highest spot in creation. Since this spot can only hold one, for there is only one God, man and woman came into conflict for the first time. The social relationship began to break down. We see this in Genesis 3:12, when Adam is reciting to God what happened.

The man said, “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Since placing themselves at the top of creation, Adam and Eve must remain in conflict so they can stay above the other and remain at the top of the hierarchy. When God asks Adam what happens, Adam is in danger of being bumped down a couple of pegs. So Adam tries to throw Eve under the bus. Instead of telling the truth that he chose to make a decision which went against God’s word, Adam tried to hide his disobedience by blaming everything on Eve. In Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve try to hide their physical bodies from God. When that failed, Adam tries to hide his actions from God, which also fails.

This act of hiding from God marks the breakdown of the spiritual relationship we saw in Genesis 1 and 2. Before sin, God walked among humanity. God, the creator of all things, had a relationship with His creation. God was visibly in our lives; we had unhindered communion. Then we decided we were above God, better than God. But we can only think this when there is distance between us and God because in His presence we are convicted of His glory. So we run and hide from Him. The more distance we create from Him, the higher above Him we can (falsely) believe that we are.

There are consequences to the breakdown of these three relationships. Some of these are natural results and some are imposed upon us.

Genesis 3:23-24
So the Lord God banished [humanity] from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which [Adam] had been taken. After He drove [them] out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way of to the tree of life.

The consequences of the broken spiritual relationship are seen in these verses. God once walked among us, He once communicated with us face-to-face. Now, sin has caused us to be separated from His presence. It is not that we can no longer have communication with God, it is that as long as there is sin in our lives, we can not have unrestricted communication with God. Sin drives us away from God, and it is difficult to commune with God as we are being driven away from Him.

Genesis 3:16
To the woman [God] said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

Here we see the first consequences of the broken social relationship. Many more will follow and are seen to this day. In Genesis 1 and 2 Adam and Eve were partners, they helped each other take care of creation. The disruption caused by sin changed their relationship. The inequality of women that we see today is one of the results of this original disruption of shalom. The relationship between man and woman has broken down because each believed that they knew better than God. Once they stepped out of the proper order of creation, their relationship with one another was no longer pure.

Our broken social relationships are not limited to the relationship of man and woman, it extends to each human’s relationship with all of humanity. Our  pride is like a wrecking ball to our social relationships. We have a tendency to view ourselves as the center of our world, to view ourselves as the main character in our stories. When this happens, the love that was meant to flow from God through us to others becomes caught up in only us. Love is meant to create and nourish. If we do not allow love to flow through us, we cannot nourish relationships with others.

Genesis 3:17-19
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

These verse give us a glimpse into the first consequences of a broken physical relationship. We do not know the exact relationship between humanity and creation before sin, it is harder for us to imagine this relationship than the other two relationships, but we know that it was healthier than it is now. While I cannot say how creation might have acted towards us, there are some ways that we did, or did not, act towards creation.

Genesis 2:15
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Our first “job,” one of our original purposes, was to take care of God’s creation. This means we didn’t litter, we didn’t overfish, we didn’t hunt for sport, we didn’t destroy rainforests. Our actions towards creation are supposed to help it grow, not kill and destroy it.

Before we see sin enter the story in Genesis 3, we see this picture of a beautiful world in Genesis 1 and 2 that existed in shalom. Everything was as God intended it. But we decided to sin, to disorder creation and break the relationships God had made. That is the world we live in now, a Genesis 3 world, but that is not the world we were created to live in. We were created, and intended, to live in a Genesis 1 and 2 world.

After the introduction of sin, God chose the nation of Israel to be His chosen people. They were called to restore those broken relationships. But they could not fully restore them, they could only begin the restoration. So God became man in order to give us an example of how to live a Genesis 1 and 2 life in a Genesis 3 world. Our job today, as both the church and as individual Christians, is to follow the example of Jesus. In doing this we can restore the broken relationships and return to the reality which God intended for us!

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