Perhaps it is a sign of our own selfishness that we often say,”Why do bad things happen to good people?” When in actuality, God has lost far more than anyone in the fall of humanity. Creation is fallen. His good and wonderful world so carefully created is now riddled with brokenness and entropy. Creation has reverted to being somewhat deformed. It is diseased and infected with pain and suffering that He never intended. Yet, this good God does not just drag it all to the trash and empty it. Nor hit a reset button and restore it back to pristine condition in an instant. No, instead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit had a contingency plan. That if this were to happen they would work to involve and partner with creation, with their creatures and the imagebearers, to work together to continue the plan of God to reconcile all things to Himself. It is going to take all of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit and all of us; body, soul and spirit to put things to right. He includes us. It is within His power to fix it all in an instant, but to include us in taking responsibility for the problem we created means that we can also be a part of the solution he devises. It is going to cost Him and us in the process, but the result will be worth it. A good God wronged by His creatures and yet not vindictive, bitter or angry… God invites us to come back to reality.
The reality check that God gives us comes in the form of questions he asks us everyday not just after the fall of a common ancestor that we find in Adam and Eve. God comes back into the garden and finds them hiding. Ashamed and blaming one another, He asks questions, not for Himself but as a reality check for us. He asks them of me today too. “Where are you?”, “What Have you done?” and “Who told you?” In seeking for our own honest responses or violent reactions to those probing questions we are confronted with ourselves. Increasingly in touch with our humanity and desire to be something other. Where am I? I am embodied. The choice was made embodied. It was good to my senses, it was pleasant to the eye. I took, I ate and I was told that by doing so I would become more like God and less finite, limited and frail. The temptation that we were offered by evil was to become more like God. As if God did not make us quite right. He is holding something back from us and there might be a way to be less human and much more divine. To partake of His nature and not be His creature. As we are, we are made in His image. Is our humanity something we embrace or wish to escape from? God is calling us to be more and more fully human. We will always be human! To become anything less is dehumanising and inhumane. So what other option do we have? Jesus will come fully human, so if it is good enough for Him, why do we reject our finiteness?
This was a car crash moment. We were met with instant death, and the outworking of that would be felt from that moment onwards. All things were perfect. Heaven and earth were united in a good and whole creation. The moment we refused to be imagebearers of God we instead imaged ourselves after something other than the way God made us and we fell. This was a rejection of God, of His Word, of our design and of our humanity. A third of the angels seem to have rebelled. They had a sense that Humanity had been now given a place of prominence that even angels longed for. To no angel did God ever say, “you are my son!” Or “I am making you in my image”. So, God has endowed our humanity with an ability to mirror him in every part of our being. The rest of creation shows God’s attributes, power and Godhead, but we show Him most of all. This all came crashing to a halt in one moment and will take millennia to unpack the ramifications. To figure out how we are going to negotiate the consequences of this. Of course it didn’t just happen once. We continue to compound the situation by choosing again and again to live out of this alternate reality. An alternate story that we have created by our will and the belief of a lie. Still God honours our will and always will do so. We have the second most powerful will in the universe. If Satan wants power, He has to get us to agree with Him. God’s will is sovereign over all, but not controlling anything He has created. This is pure love and freedom at work. It will cost God most of all as he will need to watch His imagebearers be torn apart and pained for generation after generation. He will not give up and will not erase His imagebearers or their humanity, it is what He loves most about us. Our humanity is our imagebearing ability. He will solve the problem of sin while retaining our humanity forever.
All that God created, He is still sustaining. He holds together every atom, every creature, every ecosystem. All things still reflect Him. While sin is powerful and spreads like a disease there is still good, beauty and order and abundance all over creation. It did not descend automatically into a cess pool of filth. We are surrounded by a beautiful creation that is sustained by God but is now suffering abuse, disuse and becoming brittle since God’s imagebearers have become bent inward, selfish, exploitative and vindictive. The natural world which we are called to steward we now treat inhumanely with so many creatures under our care. So creation began to groan from the fall until now for redemption. Work has become hard, childbirth painful and we groan again and again under the weight of sin. The ache of muscles and the agony of relationships. Even the simple yet hard work of communicating and being misunderstood. There is much to groan about. Nature still reflects God. It is still beautiful, resilient and was the first book that God ever wrote. Without creation we would not have a translation tool for God to make anything known to us. The Bible uses creation endlessly to convey truth. Jesus especially uses human senses and nature to convey endless truths about God as well as the coming kingdom using fish and coins, needles and camels. We are to enjoy creation as a compliment to scripture, all the while realising that nature is tainted and diseased and infected by evil just as every imagebearer is too. All things; everything needs healing and rehabilitation. The spiritual world is no less in need of redemption too. Fallenness is everywhere, but redemption is coming…
This early warning system is a gift from God. It is something he never intended for us, but when we feel pain, we should be paying attention. It is a trigger system that allows us to discover who God is, what hurts and how to go to Him with it. People in pain disassociate from it. This too can be a gift from God. If we are abused or raped or tortured, our body can be treated inhumanely and we can survive incredible pain. We can become disembodied to deal with extreme pain. But in doing so, we also exile a part of ourselves to protect what is left and still be functional. Yet, afterward, we need to be able to find integration again through therapy. Rehabilitation is learning to recover from the cataclysmic event we have just been a part of. To find reintegration and wholeness. This is how we experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We need to be integrated and fully human again. To have every part of us restored and things to be made right. Justice must be given. Mercy must be extended to ourselves. Forgiveness to the perpetrator and healing in the brokenness. It is something we choose to walk out of or we stay mired in it. This is all about choice. Suffering can be used by God, but it is never ever sent by God. He can take the worst suffering and make diamonds out of the pressure. It always depends on our posture towards Him whether we recover from it. Every part of us is engaged in both the joy of creation and also similarly the pain of suffering. If one part of our body or psyche is in agony it will affect our whole person. This is because we are integrated whole persons made in the image of God. We need healing in every single part of us to be fully human.
Work which was a joy before now becomes a chore to do. Before it was fulfilling and a delight. It gave us a sense of achievement and enabled us to follow the vocational call of God which is unique to each of us. Our gifts, personality, physical qualities, mental ability, emotional awareness, creativity and rational all come into play. At work, especially passionate work, we should love what we do in service to others. Sadly, more and more people are not working for enjoyment or fulfilment, simply as a means to an end. The pay check. Most of the modern workforce are not happy in their workplace or job placement, unable to enjoy the labour of their hands or the sweat off their brow. Simple things have become a lot harder. Still, there is joy to be found in selfless work. Serving those in need. Providing services that would otherwise leave families without healthcare, education, food and shelter. Work can be a means to provide for families and a creative outlet. If you are helping someone become more human, with greater dignity, wholeness and health, you are doing the work of God. Whenever we decide to make our world a little more human, embrace our own and others vulnerability, when we exercise or eat right, care for the environment, and nurture relationships as well as seek to serve the other, we bare God’s image into our world as salt and light.
The life we have to live is a human one. As I become more safe in my own skin, I am very aware of my giftedness, finiteness and also my brokenness. I am aware of my failings, my habits and my weakness. Life has a way of showing us where we are not doing well more often than not. We get a clear picture of who we really are since those truths are reflected back to us by our family, as well as our friends, our spouse, our children or our colleagues. We are reflective creatures. We know that if we have a father who is abusive we will lose respect for them as their authority is only as strong as the love they show. In each of our lives we have baggage to carry. Some of it we inherit as fallenness in our family genealogy. Institutional evil can show its ugly head in banking systems or political oppression. In racial segregation or economic disparity. We can get dehumanised by commercialisation. We can hate the way we look or be the target of sexual discrimination. Regardless of what life dishes out, we need to also be aware that God sees you and I as His imagebearers, through which other imagebearers can be reminded of their own imagebearing creativity. That though we are all broken without exception, we are not forgotten. Which imagebearers are in your sphere of influence? How can you give them their humanity and dignity back as a reminder that they are designed to be imagebearers of God?