"In the midst of pain, the real question is ‘God are you good?'"
-Lloyd Shadrach…Fellowship Bible Church-Brentwood, TN
As if I were intentionally mimicking a sardine in its oily can, I sat in church Sunday morning and awkwardly tried to cross my legs to have some sense of relief through movement. Today's topic, The Fall of Mankind. I listened intently as I was struck by much of what was said and the connection that I had to all of humanity in its brokenness.
Genesis 3 gives the reader the sense that this is the demise of mankind; a quick ending to the story before is really even gets started. It is an interesting passage, one that we sometimes study, but rarely feel the depth and severity of. To every good story, there exists a hero, a villain, a crisis, and a resolution. Genesis 3 presents humanity at perhaps its lowest point. The hero is introduced as the Creator and like a slap to the face the villain and the crisis arise together in Genesis 3 as humanity plunges into darkness. Luckily for humanity, however, the hero is inexorable and inescapable. The God of Creation begins the fight to bring humanity back. The story is epic and as in all stories of goodness and adventure, the hero comes out victorious.
By God's very nature, He must be glorified. God exists and creates everything to glorify Him. It is all of creation's job to bring glory to Him. The rocks, trees, sky, and animals all glorify God by doing what they are created to do. When a fish swims it glorifies God. When a tree blows in the breeze it glorifies God. When a river flows it glorifies God. All three of these are doing what God intend for them to do and thus bring Him glory.
Humanity is also created to glorify God. Humanity is different though. The fish, trees, and rivers are not given a choice about whether they may glorify God or not. Their purpose is already set and there is no decision on their part. This is not so with humanity; with us.
God creates with great power in Genesis 1. He creates solely by speaking. He speaks it and it is. It is all good in the beginning except for man's aloneness. Next, God provides for man in Genesis 2 by creating him a helpmate. As our story progresses we meet a surprising change in Genesis 3, however. The natural consequence of God's power and provision should be worship. Glorifying God.
Power + Provision ≠ Worship, however.
We become skewed.
We change lanes.
We spiral downward.
Humanity realizes that there is another option. Humanity chooses rebellion. God says, "I created you. I love you. You are very good. I have a plan for you and I will do great things with you." Humanity believes a lie. Although God provides completely, humanity wants to find its own path, its own way. Humanity's way does not work.
Genesis 4 through Revelation 20 demonstrates God's relentless love and goodness in bringing His people back. God presents another option, not a Plan B, but a new way for humanity to re-choose. Through Christ, God offers us an on ramp back onto the right road; into the right direction perhaps. Through God's indescribable love, He shows humanity that we can trust his goodness, his love, and his provision. He invites humanity into His eternal delight in us.
Why all of the turmoil though? Why did God not create humanity like a fish, tree, or river? If God is as good as He says He is then why allow the pain? It's a messy question with an even messier answer. Through giving humanity a choice God risked rejection. He risked having his most cherished part of creation choose to live life apart from Him. If given a choice, however, creation can also choose to live with God. By giving humanity a choice God is showing his love.
Love in Choice
So how does one reconcile the pain and suffering in the world with God's goodness? Our faith is only as strong as our conviction that God is good. Left to ourselves, humanity is fallen and broken. Humanity cannot look at itself alone and see the goodness of God. The only basis humanity has for knowing that God is good is the cross. A God who would die to self and take the burden upon Himself to bring humanity back is a God who is none else but pure goodness and delight.
A redeemed humanity is more innocent that an unfallen humanity because a redeemed humanity has surrendered to its Creator and has chosen the gift of love that the Creator so joyfully offers. This is eternal and unfailing goodness.