April 21, 2019

Sundays in Easter: The Very Good Gospel (3)

Spring Green. Photo by David Cornwell

Sin is not about the personal imperfection of the self. Rather, sin is any act that breaks any of the relationships God declared very good in the beginning.

• Lisa Sharon Harper

• • •

On Sundays in Easter, we are hearing from Lisa Sharon Harper about The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. Her book is about the fullness of the good news that Jesus lived, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven to give us. Harper tells us that this good news is about shalom, the opposite of our often “thin” understanding of the gospel.

Chapter three has Lisa Harper exploring Genesis 2, a more intimate look at God’s good creation and the calling of humans to live in relationship with each other and the abundant creation in which he placed them.

On our most basic level, we were created for relationship with God, within community, with the rest of creation, and between genders. And on a deeper level, all human relationships depend on one central relationship: humanity’s relationship with God. After all, our life breath— life itself— was given by God. The community of the rest of creation was given by God. And, ultimately, the extravagant gift of bonded human companionship was the gift of God. What human fulfillment can there be apart from God?

The test that Adam and Eve faced was a test of their loving relationship with God. As Harper notes, two of the most fundamental characteristics of an adult love relationship are trust and choice. The couple in the garden was presented with an opportunity to trust God’s word, even when it involved a prohibition of something enticing, and to choose to act on that trust by not eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

At root the question they faced was “Do I love God?” This question is at the heart of all our relationships, and how we exercise trust and choice in the context of those relationships determines whether or not they advance shalom and strengthen the web of relationships in which we live.

Genesis 1 and 2 offer clear pictures of the Kingdom of God, showing what it looks like and what it requires of its citizens. God created us in an interconnected web of overwhelmingly good relationships, and love is the powerful tie that binds us together. The choices we make regarding how we gain peace reveal whether or not we trust God and choose God’s ways to peace and fulfillment. To choose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil— which results in greed, consumption, exploitation, nationalism, misogyny, and other-ism— is to become an enemy of God’s purposes in our world.

However, we all know what happened…

Love would have led the man and woman to ask God about the tree before eating from it. Love would have led them to trust God’s heart and intentions. But they didn’t love God with their actions, and down went the interconnected web of relationships that God had created. The relationships were ripped apart, separated by sin.

Lisa Harper observes that, in the biblical story, it is only thirteen chapters from “very good” to nations at war.

At root, this anti-shalom situation springs from the failure to love through trusting and choosing to honor love by our actions.

Comments

  1. Rick Ro. says:

    Nice little homily.

    –> “As Harper notes, two of the most fundamental characteristics of an adult love relationship are trust and choice.”

    Good insight.

    –> “Lisa Harper observes that, in the biblical story, it is only thirteen chapters from ‘very good’ to nations at war.”

    Yep. Things went down the toilet pretty quickly.

    –> “At root, this anti-shalom situation springs from the failure to love through trusting and choosing to honor love by our actions.”

    Interesting notion. It’s difficult to love and trust someone who’s coming at you with an army, wanting to take your land and enslave you.

  2. Ronald Avra says:

    Lisa has some interesting perspectives. Definitely worth taking the time to mull them over.

  3. Christiane says:

    misogyny . . . . yes, it IS something that went against what God intended for our kind

    I remember hearing about the SBC’s year 2000 Baptist Faith & Message where the powers that be required women to be submissive to their husbands because they THOUGHT that is what God ‘required’ in the Bible. But it was not.

    God wanted married couples to be mutually giving either to other in the kind of charity that is displayed among groups where folks are diverse, yet respectful and loving and GIVING of ‘self’ for the benefit of ‘the other’ without expecting anything in return:
    a model not too different from what we know about the inter-actions of the Holy Trinity, a mystery, yes, but something is revealed to us, enough to know that the Holy Trinity does not have one Person ‘above’ the other two Persons, but it is held together by a generative force we call ‘love’ . . . the real thing, where ‘giving’ to the ‘other’ for the sake of the ‘other’ sets a definition of ‘what love is’ for all of Creation.

    so the pale ‘misogyny’ of subordination as opposed to ‘mutual giving’ took over in the SBC . . . and unfortunately, it has led to some strange results, one being that some embrace a teaching called ESS, the Eternal Subordination of the Son . . . . a form of a heresy seen and confronted successfully in the early Church, only to re-appear under the teachings of men. It is a ‘given’ that the ‘doctrine’ of ESS was formulated to shore up the enforced submission of wives to their authoritative husbands . . . . but it fell through after a time of examination, thank God . . . at least for many of those who were first drawn to the ESS heresy.