by Rev. Philip Friesen
Jesus revealed that God is love. Love binds the Trinity as one, and love is the motivation for creation itself. Genesis does not say this or even mention love, it only tells us what God did. But Jesus Christ has revealed who God is and what is his nature. We understand the meaning of Genesis in the light of further revelation that is complete in Jesus.
Trust is essential for all relationship. Our salvation depends upon trusting God. Genesis does not mention the word trust, but trust is the essential issue in the story of Genesis. God trusted us with responsibility to care for his garden. Adam and Eve distrusted God’s intentions, but Abraham trusted God, and was declared to be the friend of God. In the story of Abraham’s family, God demonstrated his trustworthiness in all situations.
By the end of Genesis, forgiveness enters the Biblical story for the first time. After their father, Jacob, died, Joseph’s brothers feared him because they knew they were unworthy of his trust, which they had shamelessly betrayed. Joseph’s unmerited forgiveness introduced a new theme into the Biblical story. Joseph was able to forgive them because he had seen the providential activity of God working in and through the painful process to effect the salvation of the entire family—saved by God from famine. Joseph’s trust in God made him trustworthy as well so that his brothers need not fear his intentions.
The truth of God’s loving and trustworthy character is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. If we understand Jesus, then we will be able to see the same Divine character present throughout the rest of scripture in more primitive stages of revelation. We might say the love that exploded the universe into being is the same love that sent the Son for our salvation.
MORE ON TRUST AND BEING TRUSTWORTHY
Trust is the measure of all relationship. Without some measure of trust, two people will not agree to be in the same room together, at least not without either a gun or a lawyer, possibly both. The test of any relationship is the degree to which trust is freely given.
In Genesis 3 the snake asserts that God cannot be trusted, but one can trust ones own senses and instincts. If the fruit looks and smells good, then it must be good. If one doesn’t taste the fruit, how will one ever know whether it is good or not?
The snake is a most convincing liar. God, however, is trustworthy. God said the humans would die, and death began when they trusted the liar and disregarded their Creator. But their souls died before their bodies. Immediately shame and fear entered their souls because immediately they knew they had been deceived, but the man ran to hide and the woman followed him into hiding.
God came seeking them, and the rest of the Biblical story is a story of hide and seek in which God seeks the people who are hiding. Still at times people also seek God whenever desperate circumstances bring them out of hiding, but at those times it is common for them to discover that God seems to be the one in hiding, for God is not to be found. God’s presence is not easily recognized by eyes that sin, fear, and distrust have blinded. God only appears when we are desperate and honest enough to let go our fears and trust him.
Trust is what holds family and community together. Trust is essential for any economic or social system to function, and the greatest barrier to developing a successful system is deficiency of trust. In the world, we seek to develop trustworthy systems that work, but in God’s kingdom the basis of relationship is not ultimately trustworthy systems, but rather trustworthy people.
Trust is not mentioned in the creation story, but clearly the story is about trust betrayed and the promise of trust restored. Our eternal salvation depends upon trust.
MORE ON LOVE
I am loved, therefore I am. Love is the source of all that exists. The 17th century philosopher, Rene Descartes, is famous today for his statement, “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes tried to find his human significance in the fact of his own brilliant intellect. His significance was something he bestowed upon himself. By contrast, the Biblical story reveals human significance as something bestowed by the Creator as a gift rather than an accomplishment.
John wrote in his first epistle chapter 4, “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…Whoever does not love is not of God, for God is love.” Love is creative, and creation itself is the outcome of love. The creator first loved the thought of my existence, and then brought me that thought into material reality at my birth on earth. My true human significance derives from this fact, and this fact alone.
The need to be loved is written into every human soul. Every child needs to be assured that its origin lies in the relationship of two people who loved each other then, who love each other now, and will do so till death. If the love that brought about a child’s conception is eternally irrevocable, then the child’s eternal significance is also irrevocable. Nothing in the created world reflects the eternal faithfulness and love of God more clearly than this. This ideal of marriage in Genesis is male and female, naked, unashamed, and irrevocably made one by the bonds of love. This is the image of a God who conceived each human life to be the result of love’s excess at the source of our existence.
Relationship defines identity. Identity is not something one earns, but is bestowed. Just as significance is bestowed by love, the foundations of identity are given by parents, but not exclusively so. Many other relationships will confirm or negate the experience of love in a family of origin. The 20th century French Jesuit sinologist, Yves Raquin, wrote, “To know someone is to love him…and Christ’s invitation to experience God is precisely an invitation to know God by union in love.” Human love, no matter how idyllic and perfect it may momentarily appear on earth, is only a road sign telling us that God is love.
Love deals honestly with truth and never takes unfair advantage by deception. Truth is essential for trust to be established and maintained. Truth is not a mere congruence with facts. As with love, truth is essential to the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Truth in this context is relational and is known only by involvement, not by mere observation and analysis of facts.
The truth is tat God is trustworthy. The tragedy of our universal human experiment in sin has shortchanged our capacity for love by fear of betrayal, and therefore we dare not live in trust. Creative cleverness are valued above unconditional love today for the sake of survival, but this cuts us off from God’s life and creates the very insecurity we have tried to avoid.
Because we all are born and grow up with a certain deficiency in both love and trust, we are all crippled in our capacity to know the truth about God, and therefore, our own human significance will be a question mark until we truly know God in relationship. The Biblical story reveals one thing. Even when we cannot trust each other, or even ourselves, God remains trustworthy. This is the truth about the universe that will not change. This truth, while present darkly in thecreation story, is made clear in the person of our Lord who was and is Love and Truth and Life incarnate among us.