Spring retreat for RCCCCG (Asheboro, NC)
Thursday AM @ Mar 14, 2002
By DJ Chuang
Explore: Whatís wrong with the world today? What do you wish could change in the world today?
ďWhy canít we just get along?Ē Those words were immortalized by a most untypical person named Rodney King, who was thrown into the spotlight because he was caught on videotape while four policemen detained him on a drunk driving stop.† His words echoed throughout the country after race riots erupted around Los Angeles, and were threatening to spark similar outbursts in other large cities with racial strife. Can you feel the frustration behind those words?
Every one of us wishes that people could get along, that people would be at peace with each other. This desire for peace spans all the way down to a smaller scale (remember the various school shootings?), and spreads all the way up to a global level (as many nations rally to fight terrorism in the aftermath of September 11th).
In the post-enlightenment world, some people think mankind is beyond wars and petty arguments. Weíre smart enough to build all kinds of technology and communication, so we know how to get along with each other. Yet the evidence shows that after World War II, the world has experienced increasing numbers of civil wars due to ethnic strife than ever before. Increasing, not decreasing. Weíre destroying each other, not only physically, but also the world is riddled with diseases, poverty, hunger, inequality, persecution, and oppression, just to name a few.
This was not the way the world was meant to be. What happened? What went wrong in the world? How did we wind up with this mess?
1- A perfect world Ė created for a perfect world
The world was not always messed up. Iíd like to take us back to a time when the world was a different place. There was a time when people got along perfectly, and they experienced total peace: they experienced peace with each other and with the Creator God. There was no violence. No hatred. No abuse. No divorce. No in-group. No out-group. No suffering. No evil. And Iím not talking about a fairy tale or a dream world, Iím talking about the real world, the very planet that we inhabit right now. But this was a number of years back. Maybe 5000 years or more. The Bible talks about it in the book of Genesis.
The Bible opens with these words: ďIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Ē (Gen. 1:1) That was how it all started, God created it. He spoke it into being, and the world came into being. Those were powerful words. God spoke, and there it was. The earth. The light. The sky. The waters. The land. I donít know exactly how it happened, whether it spontaneously appeared ex nihilo, or it formed over a period of time as molecules and particles swirled around and stuck to themselves. The text simply tells us God spoke, and things came into being. God spoke, and there were plants. Stars. Birds. Fishes. Animals. And God saw all that He had made, and said it was good. It was very good.
You might imagine how beautiful a world this was. Perfectly manicured vegetation, unmarred by natural disasters or toxic waste. Animals cozying up in their natural habitats. Fishes swimming in the waters freely. Birds soaring throughout the skies and singing sweet melodies in the trees. [Sorta like here in North Carolina :)]
Iím not an outdoorsy person per se, never been camping, boating, or fishing. I donít know my plants and trails and national parks. But a few times, I have gone for a short hiking trip with friends, and weíd take in the beauty of nature. I didnít have to be a nature lover or lobbying environmentalist to enjoy natural beauty.
But God wasnít done creating in the world yet. He was only warming up. His creative juices were just getting primed. He would create a mounting masterpiece: humankind. The beauty of creation was plainly seen. The animals that wandered displayed Godís creativity.
What else does God create?
From Genesis 1:27-28:: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
While there is some similarities between man and animal, because weíre all made from the same stuff, dirt of the earth, there is this one big difference: the image of God. With the rest of creation, he simply calls them into being. Animals, come forth. Crawl. Jump. gallop. Birds, fly. Fishes, swim. Now God might have used more words, I donít really know.
From Genesis 2:7 :: the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Now when it came to creating people, God gets personally involved, rolling up his anthropomorphic sleeves, getting his hands into the earthy dirt, fashioning and shaping a creature. And after shaping this pile of dirt, unlike any other creature, God breathed into his nostrils the very breath of life. In so doing, God created a creature so unique, so special, so valuable, in His own image, with Godís very breath, Godís very life.
What does it mean for people to be created in the image of God? People would be able to communicate and commune with God, and with each other, unlike any other creature.
Iíd also add that we were created to enjoy life in a perfect world. Thatís why we desire to have peace in the world. Itís deeply embedded into the fabric of our being. We were created for peace and harmony with God, and with each other. Thatís the way things were meant to be. And thatís the way we yearn and desire for things to be.
Life was simple. It wasnít complicated. Do what God created you to do. Thatís all. Enjoy life in a perfect world, what else could you ask for?
From Genesis 2:15-18::
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
God gave them His blessings (Genesis 1:28). Enjoy life in a perfect world. God has given you everything. Be fruitful and multiply. Youíre not like the animals; they breed. Man and woman; you marry and reproduce. Take care of the earth and the creatures. And just one more thing. Donít each from one particular tree. Thatís all. Enjoy the hundreds and thousands of other trees around the garden.
Can you see how the world was, and how it was meant to be? Godís commands were clearly stated. God provided for all their needs. People knew what God wanted them to do. People cooperated with each other and took care of each other. No strife, no gossip, no jealousy, no competition or one-upsmanship. No anxiety. No fear. No guilt or shame. People were in a right relationship with God, able to listen to God and to talk to God. People enjoyed great relationship with each other. They could take nature walks and enjoy unmarred beauty, pet the animals, and eat the best organic fruits and vegetables.
But the perfect world wouldnít last forever. I donít know how long it lasted. The text does tell us it didnít last even one generation. And by the next chapter, the world unraveled and became a mess.
The one thing the first couple, Adam and Eve, were told not to do, they were tempted to do it. And they did it.
Why would they go and do a thing like that? They were created perfectly, untainted with sin, and when presented with this choice to obey or disobey Godís command, they disobeyed God. They had the option to accept or reject the serpentís offer, and they choose to accept it. And they reasoned among themselves that they knew better than God, that to know good and evil would be good for them. Oh, but they forgot that little clause about when they eat of the fruit they will surely die. It wasnít even fine print; the consequence of eating the fruit was plain and clear. But there they stood, listening to the serpentís distortion of truth, looking at the fruit, and reaching out and ate of the fruit. It wasnít so much they broke a command, it was that they broke a relationship. They didnít trust God. They trusted in themselves and in the serpent. And when they ate of the fruit, they surely did die. Death is separation, and they became separated from God, relationally and spiritually.
God finds Adam and Eve, calls them to account, and pronounces the consequences of their action. All of creation is now cursed: earth, animals, and mankind. (Genesis 3:14-19) The world is messed up because of this one single act of disobedience. And multiply that by generations of sinners who sin, youíve got a royal mess: famine, disease, poverty, strife, toil, death, just to name a few.
Now letís not be too hard on them. If you or I were in the same place, weíd do the very same thing. And even more so. Adam and Eve were created perfectly without sin, and they had the free will to obey or disobey. They disobeyed. Everyone after Adam and Eve is born into sin, and that means you and I are sinners with a free will to obey or disobey.
Illus: Mrs. P, a Christian lady I know, was watching a movie, with two ladies sitting behind her gabbing away. Mrs. P turned around to ask them to be quiet. Then she wound up with popcorn in her hair. She was so furious, if she was armed, she wouldíve fired two shots and killed them. Sidenote: we are all prone to sin, and we need not be too hard on those who struggle with sin, or those who obviously sin.
Is it fair for God to create man to have free will and yet not able to obey Godís commands? Maybe the argument can be made that Godís not fair. Okay, maybe Godís unfair by those warped standards.
But God is just. And He is good. He is sufficient, that is, He alone satisfies our greatest needs and desires. And He is God. But we donít believe that all of the time, especially when the unexpected happens, be it failure, disappointment, or tragedy. And when we donít believe, we donít trust, and we donít obey. We make a mess of things when we do our own things.
God immediately gets to work to restore the world. God shows his love and compassion for Adam and Eve by providing clothes for them as they separated. But first, God gives mankind a sign of hope: That one day the world will be restored to a perfect world, that the mess will get cleaned up, that evil will be defeated.
From Genesis 3:15 ::
ďAnd I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.Ē
God here speaks to the serpent, that there will be enmity, and their respective descendents. The promise is that an offspring of the woman will be born who will crush the serpentís head. If we read on in the Old Testament narrative, we find out that this person of promise to come would be known as the Messiah, and He would be the one to triumph over evil, justice shall prevail, and the world made perfect. And the New Testament tells us His name is Jesus Christ.
We were created to be a part of Godís story in restoring the world. The history of mankind is this: that Godís working and orchestrating everything for the restoration of a perfect world. Yet God doesnít do it alone; weíre invited to join God in restoring the world.
But for us to be a part of Godís work, we have to be restored ourselves first. The worldís a mess, and so are we. If you donít think youíre a mess, you have a mess called pride. Once you honestly acknowledge who you are to God our Creator, and that you need His help for this life, and you want to be a part of His story, then He breathes into you a new life. He begins the work of restoration in you, and He empowers and strengthens you to join the work of restoring the world with Him. Place your full confidence in God that He loves you, will guide you, and give you the deepest desires of your heart.
Illus: We began house restoration in our home in Bethesda. Tearing out the suspended ceilings, dark paneling walls, and 25-year old carpet. But we needed help, so we hired some contractors. Now we have a home, a place of rest and refuge to many.
God wants to make our dreams come true for a perfect world, to restore our messed up lives and a messed up world. Get to know God, so you can have an interactive relationship with Him, receive His Spiritís strength and power, and join Him in restoring the world.