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Why I love Genesis

June 30, 2014

When you talk about Genesis you have to first talk about Phil Collins.  Bald, beautiful, and a voice like an angel.  Each note drips with emotion.  His flawless pop instincts carry the band.

Ahh … Just kidding … (not really about Phil Collins – he’s pretty awesome)!  I meant the other much maligned first-book-of-the-Bible Genesis of course!  It’s a bit sad that it’s been relegated to being a combat text because it is easily one of my favorite books of the Bible.  So, instead of using this post to engage in origin debates, I’d like to simply tell you some reasons why I love this book.  I hope that it will lead to some love from you too.

 

1. It is exceedingly hopeful about human nature.

I spend a lot of time focusing on what a mess I am.  It’s easy to think that I’ve always been broken and I was never meant to be fixed.  The first chapters of Genesis speak against that.  It tells us that God looked at the creation of humans and ruled that they were “good”!  You can’t get more humanist than that.  In fact, God may be the ultimate humanist!  Really people – God likes us.  A whole heck of a lot.

 

2.  Genesis shows us that the methodology of God’s action in our global life as humans is based on love for humanity.

Don’t mistake the flood story as a counterpoint to God loving humans.  The flood shows us that God’s issue with mankind’s evil behavior isn’t the effect on God; it is the effect evil has on other humans.  In this case the evil was so bad it was creating a state of perpetual repression.  The flood was about making goodness to humans possible in the future.  Even then, though Genesis states that the entire earth was “corrupt and full of violence” and the their thoughts were “only evil all of the time”, God still gave these human beings around one hundred years to repent and change.

This illustrates two amazing things about the nature of God.  Even though humankind created a massive problem, God believed in humans so much that despite only a handful of people who cared about being good to each other were left, God did not destroy the whole of humanity.  The goodness of a very few was highly valued by God.  That is a tremendous hope for us that Genesis gives us.  Second, it shows us that when God action seems quiet to suffering it means care not indifference – care for even the worst of the worst.  In Noah’s time, for a hundred years or so during that violent era, God was acting.  God prepared the holy people to be saved.  God allowed them to suffer because of the desire to see more saved.  But did God forget the pain that those people brought?  No, God still destroyed repression in the end.

 

3.  Genesis tells us that God is in this thing with us.

In the very beginning God made us by breathing into our bodies.  God is tied to us in that way.  Genesis tells us that God risks a bit of himself with every human soul produced.  It tells us that God joins us in every breath we take throughout this life.

Time after time in Genesis, when there are problems for the people, God is there, often in person!  (Noah, Adam & Eve, and Abraham spring immediately to mind among others.).  There is not abandonment.  This is often not contingent on the holiness of the people involved or the importance of the person/problem in the grand scheme of time.  God shows up in times of need and in times of plenty throughout Genesis.

 

4.  Genesis shows us that God is the God of the disenfranchised and powerless.

Over and over again, God shows concern for the small, weak, and helpless.  God forbids the killing of Cain despite murdering Abel.  God topples the Tower of Babel because it was designed as a tool for oppression.  God is concerned with the fertility problems of two inconsequential shepherds in the desert with Abraham and Sarah.  God cares that Jacob is swindled by Laban into marrying twice.  God blessed many of Jacob’s dumb plans despite how silly they were.  These stories are only the beginning and they continue with many others including Joseph and Moses.  The people the God continually interacts with are mostly unimportant people in their day with seemingly unimportant problems to the grand scheme of the world.

If you are being crushed by the weight of those in power above you, if you are faced with how poorly equipped you are to deal with a problem in your life, if your problem is small to the rest of the world but big to you – read Genesis and take heart.

 

5.  Genesis gives great insight to the core of most of our problems.

It’s amazing how well it’s illustrated.  Genesis tells us that one of our biggest problems is that we don’t trust God with our lack of knowledge.  We want to know what things feel like – even bad things – so that we can determine that we don’t want them. It’s what I call The Price is Right syndrome.  No matter how good showcase 1 is the first contestant nearly always chooses to pass on it for showcase 2.  It is ingrained in us, since God is in us, to want everything.

In the garden God creates in Genesis, Adam and Eve are given everything but one tree.  Yet, it’s that one tree that draws Eve.  The issue here isn’t simply disobedience to God – it is one of trust.  Can we trust that the things God excludes from us happens for our betterment?  That is a question that still rages today.  God doesn’t want me to do *insert activity, sin, etc … * because God is cruel, unjust, unrighteous, egotistical, or unloving.

Here’s the problem with coming to self knowledge that sin really is bad: even after changing from a sin or repenting we can see the harm we have done to another and what we have taken away from them and that haunts us.  It especially haunts us as we understand goodness better.  We see this principle in every drunkard who drinks to try to forget the mistakes made.  We see this sometimes in achievers – working, working, working to try to make up for the thing that they did in a self punishing way.  How many protagonists of films or books or songs are the suffering hero showing their true repentance by being unable to let go of the pain they inflicted on the world?

We actually measure the depth of change by how much these people allow themselves to suffer for what they did.  The problem with it all is that we are stuck not being what Genesis tells us we were intended for and are – that we are “good”, that God is with us all of the time, that God cares about us, and that we are greatly loved.  Instead we live out our existence still controlled by the places we fell short.  This obliterates the notion that we need to understand evil to understand good.   Understanding evil keeps us from fully understanding goodness.  To experience pure goodness we cannot know evil.  This is why God was trying to keep Adam and Eve away from it.

This is also why what is established in Genesis is so genius.  God, in infinite wisdom knowing that true goodness is not tainted by evil first tried to keep us away from sin (although we were allowed to choose it if we wanted).  The majesty in the fixing of the problem of guilt/knowledge of evil, however, was to include a salvation plan predicated on the domino consequences of the mistakes themselves.  Through the wickedness of man God’s son Jesus was killed but because of that event and his sinless life a loophole for salvation was created.  This plan also allows God to forget the sin (or, in other words, forget the pain caused to the beloved human souls) because it has justly been atoned for.  As Genesis says, the Serpent struck man’s heel* but in doing so had its head crushed.

*****

 

I’ve just scratched the surface of the goodness of Genesis.  It is an excellent book.  I love it!  I hope you won’t relegate it to a thing you put on a shelf to get dusty because all it seems to do is cause people to fight.  There is a tremendous amount of love and goodness in it.

 

 

*Antivenom is a strange thing.  Humans have no natural immunity to snake venoms (although individual physiology may limit its effects).  Manufactured antivenom is thus necessary.  Antivenoms are made by injecting small amounts of venom into large animals (horses, usually).  The blood in the animal creates antibodies fighting the venom.  Once those antibodies are created the blood is made into a serum that is injected into human beings.  Those trying to acquire immunity to venom do so by injecting small amounts over time to build up antibodies.  However, those positive effects don’t work without continued injections because latency can never be fully developed.

The correlation of how antivenom works compared to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, sin, and the New Testament account of how salvation from sin is worked in us through Christ is fascinating to me.  In the case of the removal of sin, our blood is transfused with the blood of Jesus who injected the venom into himself.  His blood purifies ours.  His continued presence in our blood continually purifies us in a similar way to those who are trying to build up venom immunity.  Thus, while on earth at least, we may be bitten by sin but the venom has no power in our bodies.

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