What follows below are unfiltered, uncensored thoughts on my reading of Genesis 1-3 and John 1. You’ve been warned.
In The Beginning
Ah, the creation account. I’ve read this story many times – we were quizzed over it in Bible Bowl when I was in middle or high school, so, you know, I’m pretty much an expert on the material. I tried reading it with “fresh” eyes and an open mind, but with a story this familiar, it proved to be pretty difficult.
I feel compelled to confess one my biases up front: I don’t believe the Bible is a factual, literal, scientific document, but I do believe it is true and inspired. One of the themes I predict will emerge over the course of my reading is this tension between fact, truth and myth. I’m not opposed to the idea of a literal 6-day creation with one day of rest, but I don’t really think that’s the point or purpose of this story. And reading it as a scientific account seems unhelpful at best and frustratingly confusing at worst.
As I read the account of the garden – and in particular the Trees of Knowledge and Life – I found myself bouncing back and forth between two responses:
- God is manipulative. He setup a system he knew was going to fail. He knew his creation would give in to the temptation and would be forever separated from Him, creating a deep need for Him in the process.
- Free will as an example of deep affection for His creation. God created us with the capacity for choice. We can live in relationship with or independent of our creator. These choices – both the one he made by giving us free will and the choices we make every day – are responsible for all the evil things that happen in this world. In one of God’s greatest acts of love for His creation, he created unfathomable opportunities for His creation to suffer.
Neither is an “easy” or complete understanding of God’s connection with His creation, but the idea that He loves us enough to let us choose is a pretty significant concept. And I predict – spoiler alert – pretty critical the story I’m about to read.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. – Genesis 2:25
In Daring Greatly (an absolute must-read), author and researcher Brene Brown talks about the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is the response to having done something bad or wrong, while shame is the feeling that comes when we tell ourselves that we are bad or wrong. The distinction is important. Guilt is a healthy, natural reaction that provides inspiration to spur us to better things, while shame is an unhelpful spiral of self-doubt.
Adam and Eve had nothing to feel shame about. They were pure (naked), connected and whole. Once they made the decision to disconnect from God, shame crept in. Yes, they had done wrong, but they didn’t just feel guilty, they felt wrong. They covered themselves up and hid from their Creator.
I don’t think God wants us to feel shame. I don’t think He uses shame to help us recognize our need for Him. We are His creation, and, despite all of our screw ups, we are – still – part of His good creation. As such, shame shouldn’t be a recruiting tactic for when we invite people to join us in this story. More on this later, I anticipate.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. — John 1:9-13
Interesting to read this in conjunction with the creation account (thanks, Paul). God’s creation has constantly rejected their creator. I don’t know if this is because of some inherent desire to become gods ourselves (Genesis 3:5), or some natural inclination to be rebellious. But whatever the reason for our desire to run away, God continues to invite us to be His children. That’s pretty neat.
In The Beginning – Jesus Edition
I’m intrigued by John’s account of Jesus’ ministry launch. Jesus is “recognized” by John, which immediately inspires others to follow him. And then, after only four hours, Andrew was convinced that this guy was the Messiah. There’s no mention of miracles or visions with this interaction – just time. That’s pretty neat, too.
I hope this isn’t irreverent, but Jesus changing Simon’s name kind of makes me laugh. I love the idea upon first meeting someone and then getting a new nickname. “Yeah, ok, you’re Todd. That’s cool. We’re going to call you ‘Laser’ now. Follow me.” To be fair, I would probably love hanging out with someone who changed my name to “Laser” upon our first meeting. I’m not sure if it would be enough for me to drop everything though, so I bet there was more to Simon’s (Peter’s) devotion than being called “Rock.”
Day 1 Conclusion
One day down, a bunch more to go. I’m not sure if I will publish this much every day moving forward, but we’ll see.
I think it will be interesting to track my perspectives as this experience goes – right now I feel like I’m on an anti-shame, pro-relationship bent that injects itself into everything that I think and read. We’ll see where that goes moving forward.
Lastly, I would love if others wanted to join me on this experience. I’m going to be reading about 3-6ish chapters a day moving forward, but I’m not really using a written plan. Paul Hill, my friend and pastor, is building the daily schedule for me as I go. I’m going to read about three chapters of Genesis for every one chapter of John, and interjecting a psalm here or there. You can obviously read whatever and as fast as you want, but please, no spoilers.