January 1, 2016

Starting over with new motivation

Genesis 1–2, Hebrews 11:3

The first verse of the Bible declares that, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Although I do believe that God created from nothing, the Hebrew word bara˒ does not mean to “make something out of nothing.” It means to begin or originate a sequence of events.

In beginning this sequence, God created some interesting “scientific” rules that have shaped events right up to this day. For instance, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states: any system that is left alone will decay. Yet our earth contains life-forms that are highly organized and complex, even before we humans started meddling with them.

To me, this is a puzzle. How can order exist alongside that Second Law of Thermodynamics without some organizing force to keep the world from falling into chaos? The Bible does little to satisfy my scientific curiosity, perhaps because it is “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Genesis also says that God created humans in His image. This unique creative act gave us not only physical life but also personhood — our capacity to think, to feel, to evaluate, to love, to choose, to be self-aware individuals. That is an incredible honor, never mind that He adds a command that we are to rule the earth!

This gives me worth and value as an individual. As an image-bearer, I am too significant to let others degrade me, or allow temptations harm me.

Yet this is not all about me. To be given dominion is not about a “right to use” this world to satisfy my own needs. It is an “obligation to guard and protect” it. This applies to me and to every person. Not a few protesters correctly rally against current abuses such as strip mining and pollution.

Genesis is clear that every person shares the image-likeness of God. This is reason to treat others with respect, even those whose views are not mine. I must remember that for all of us, that image is distorted by sin, hence our polarities exist, never mind all our fears and prejudices.

Genesis also reminds me that God’s love calls for a response. I hear it every day, and suppose that others also hear Him. To answer His call means dropping our tendency to put people in categories, and fitting our view of ourselves and of others into God’s estimation rather than focus on ‘me and mine.’

Before reading and thinking about this, I was considering new beginnings for a new year. I want to “starting over” and abandon old and sinful habits for new habits that please God. However, God knows, just as most people realize, that New Year resolutions seldom last for more than a few weeks. I need a consistent motivation to eat better, exercise more, chatter less, and keep up with whatever other ‘self-improvement’ schemes I can add to my to-do list.

God offers that consistent motivation in Genesis. Instead of working hard to be an acceptable person, by the fact of creation I know that He already loves and accepts me. The rest of Scripture affirms that whether I am over-weight, flabby, or too talkative, I am still loved. And His unconditional love has a powerful effect: it turns my focus off “being a better person so I will be loved” and puts it on “loving other people because I am more loved that I can even imagine.”

Some think that the creation/evolution debate about origins hasn’t much to do with today’s life. We are told to value ourselves for what we look like, achieve, how we fit into this world, the causes we stand for, and so on. That works for a little while, but eventually I fall short of perfection in all areas and easily hate myself for being so inadequate.

However, when my worth is in my origin as a created and unconditionally loved child of God, then I have to feel sorry for those who insist humans merely ‘happened’ and are now only evolved hominids with less hair and shorter arms!  

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