In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good and God separated that light from darkness…and there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so….and there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so…and God saw that it was good. The God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their own kind with seed in them”; and it was so…and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Genesis 1.1-13)
For three more days, this pattern of God creating out of nothingness continues. He creates lights, seasons, days and years. He creates waters full of living creatures, and birds to fly in the air. And he creates cattle, and creatures of every kind, and he called each and every one of these things good. Yet, on the sixth day, the day that God creates human beings the pattern slightly changes. For starters, he gives humanity a distinction that he has not given to anything else – very goodness. Unlike everything else that God created, humanity is not only good but very good. Secondly, after creating humanity, God rests from this work meaning that he was done, and that all that was to be created has been, and is perfect and is good.
So that is what humanity represents. Perfection. Completion. Very goodness. And in that state we enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. We talked with him freely, uninhabited and unashamed because there was not anything that suggested that we should ever hide ourselves from him. But we also enjoyed a fulfilling relationship with one another. We were not afraid of someone else inadequacies, shortcomings, background, gender, or ethnicity because we were first and foremost complete in God. We were able to be our real, authentic selves with one another, to the point that Adam and Eve were able to be naked with one another and feel absolutely no shame.
Yet something happened that smeared our perfection, that corrupted our goodness. We fell out of relationship with God. We believed a lie, that we could some how achieve God-ness if we were to do the very thing that God instructed us not to do. In Genesis 2, God clearly tells Adam that he is not to eat from the tree of forbidden fruit or he would die. But Adam and Eve not only eat the fruit, but they believe that in doing so that they will attain this wisdom that they had not previously known. And although they attain it, it is not what they have in mind. Now, as a result of the fruit, they know what it is to live and be in sin. They know what it is to be far away from God, to the point that they hid themselves from him because they knew that he would be disappointed. And they know what it is like to be far from one another, and to be ashamed of one another as well as themselves. What else could make a husband and wife feel the need to cover and veil the most intimate part of who they were?
Not only did Adam and Eve cover their body parts, they also covered their hearts. They knew that there was something wrong but for them, the best way to address it was by blaming the other. First, Adam blamed Eve for making him eat the fruit, and subsequently, Eve blamed the serpent who deceived her. Neither one took responsibility for their own actions, for their own shortcomings, yet both of them, and all of humanity with them has now lost out on what it means to be good, what it means to be complete.
Immediately after this episode, we come upon Genesis 4, where we witness the first murder. Cain, feeling inadequate and ashamed out of his own failure to identify his sin and fix it, lashes out at Abel who had nothing to do with Cain’s shame or inability to measure up. Abel, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was a clear representation of all that Cain was not. This did not happen between two people who were from two different mothers, or even two different nationalities. In fact, they were brothers.
In Genesis 9, we encounter Noah. Noah was a righteous man who God spared along with his family from the flood. Yet after the flood, Noah gets himself drunk and naked, and his son Ham uncovers this. Rather than admitting his failure for getting himself in this predicament in the first place, Noah takes his frustration out on Ham, his own son, and Canaan, his grandson, saying that their family would be in perpetual servitude.
Then we come upon Genesis 16. Sarai and Hagar. This is some deep stuff. Abram (later Abraham) and Sarai (later Sarah) have been trying to get pregnant for years even though God has promised them a son. After seeing no sign of a son, and only old age, Sarai suggests that Abram sleep with her handmaid to perhaps bear a son through her, which in and of itself is a horrible thing. Yet, when it works, Sarai takes it out on Hagar. She starts to blame Hagar for her troubles, forgetting all the while that Hagar has nothing to do with her barrenness and inability to conceive a child. But she is an easy target, and so the blame, the hatred, and the oppression continue until one day, God removes both Hagar and her son Ishmael from the oppressive environment.
And we have only covered the first 16 chapters of the biblical text. Yet if we continue, we will find that this pattern of hatred, oppression, exploitation, murder, blame and shame also continues down through the text. What we will often find is that this pattern is not always wrapped up in ethnocentrism, racism, or sexism. Sometimes it is just wrapped up in the fact that wherever two people exist, at least one of them will find a way to divide and conquer the other one simply because they are unfulfilled and unsatisfied with their own selves.
But we must remember that we did not start this way. We started off being very good. We started off being complete and perfect and whole in God. How do we get back there? Not only for the sake of those that we slight in one way or another, but also for our own sakes. We cannot continue going around pitting ourselves against others because of our own deep seeded insecurities. We cannot keep blaming the Democrats, Republicans, blacks, whites, women, men, Muslims, homosexuals, Christians, Jews, rich, poor, or anybody else for the way that we feel about ourselves. It is time that we claim the responsibility that Adam and Eve pushed off on themselves and own up to our deep rooted issues.
I would suggest that this work starts at the Cross of Christ. I am not trying to be overly simplistic, I just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where it has to start. If the root of our problem has to do with us not being in proper relationship with God, then that is where we have to start to do work in order to reclaim our very goodness. You see, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a way was made for us to enter back into creation with God. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 calls this creation a new creation in that all of the mess, shame, and sin that we were accustomed to has passed away and we have become completely new.
It is out of this renewed relationship with God that we are able to begin to deal with our inadequacies and become who we were always meant to be. It does not happen over night, but as we consciously and consistently meditate on the Word of God, we begin to change. We begin to feel so complete, so full in Christ that there is no longer any need to dump all over someone else. We begin to become whole and functioning human beings that we no longer feel the need to divide, conquer and oppress someone else just because they threaten who we are. In fact, we are no longer threatened.
I am a huge social justice advocate and enthusiast. I believe that there are systems in our world, such as racism, classim, and sexism, that keep people in power in power and that also only reinforce the stereotypes of the poor colored masses so that they stay out of power. But for me, this is not the issue. Yes they are things that need to be addressed so that systems and situations will change, but it only gets at a part of the problem. The problem is a human problem, a worldwide problem, centering around who we are as individuals. It is only until we are willing to do work around that, and reclaim the goodness that we lost, that the work around social justice even has a chance.