Pursuing Partnership: The Blessed Alliance – Week 6

By Carolyn Custis James

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

The Blessed Alliance

God’s Kingdom Strategy Dismantled and Displaced

When I finished reading my husband Frank’s Church History 2 textbook manuscript, I went face down on my desk and sobbed. He was true to his promise—that as an historian he would always strive to tell the truth no matter how upsetting. The truth he told in that book was impossible to bear. History is filled with accounts of Christians committing murderous atrocities against their brothers and sisters in Christ for holding different theological positions on topics the church would later declare were matters on which Christians could agree to disagree.

Should we have a similar response when reading Genesis 3?

After reading the Genesis 1-2 account of God’s good and glorious vision for his world and his very good kingdom strategy of a Blessed Alliance of his sons and daughters, empowered to represent him and do his work together in the world, you’d think we’d be on the edge of our seats with anticipation to see what happens next. How will God’s male and female image bearers forge that Blessed Alliance? How will they work together to know and image their Creator? How will they prove the wisdom of God’s kingdom strategy that men and women are his A-team and need each other to advance God’s purposes on earth? What difference will it make when both male and female bring their full selves to God’s mission and champion each other’s gifts and efforts in that cause? How will God’s vision become reality?

Instead, before we witness a single moment of unfettered image bearer living or of the Blessed Alliance, a serpentine enemy invades. God’s image bearers are drawn in and selfishly turn their focus from their Creator onto themselves. God becomes a subject of debate, and they question whether the Creator really has their best interests at heart. They believe the lie—that they can “be like god” by simply eating from the tree of knowledge.

They turn their backs on God and eat the forbidden fruit. The woman is deceived. The man is willfully disobedient. So here we are—left in the ruins of a broken world searching for clues to tell us what the Creator had in mind for us in the beginning.

The consequences are severe. Human beings are exposed and ashamed. They are cut off from their Creator and divided from each other. They struggle to cover their nakedness and go into hiding.

It is simply impossible to comprehend how much was lost. The enormity of this letdown and the unspeakable cost to all humanity and ultimately to God himself should knock the wind out of us every time we read it. We have reason to weep.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann draws this sobering conclusion when he describes “human persons as the glory and central problem of creation.” Human history bears that out—not just in human stories recorded in the Bible, but as we witness daily in the news as well as in our own stories. The struggle to trust God, to work together as his sons and daughters, to live and thrive in his world according to his design, the inclination to marginalize God and place ourselves or some other person at the center. The heart of sin is not merely that we do and think wrong things, but that we fail to live up to our ultimate calling as the imago Dei and misrepresent him. To put a fine point on the matter: we all “fall short”[1] of striving to reflect God’s glory—his character and heart for the world.

Brueggemann goes on to underscore that the key issue for the pair in the Garden and for us today is “how to live with the creation in God’s world on God’s terms.”[2]

But amazingly—and this should surely shock us—this text is not cause for despair. It gives us a stiff dose of realism, but also enormous hope. Genesis 3 contains the first announcement of the Gospel. That “Good News” doesn’t just come when God promises the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, although that is incredibly stupendous good news. The good news starts before then when the Creator, who knows exactly what is up, comes looking for his rebellious image bearers. Let that sink in.

He seeks them out, draws them from hiding, and wants to hear from their own lips what they have done. Yes there will be consequences, but God will never give up on his image bearers or on his vision for the world.

The God of self-giving love calls us to image him by putting the interests of others ahead of ourselves. This bone-deep oneness will cause the world to take note that Jesus has come and that his kingdom is not of this world. Our Creator will not be deterred: he will see his vision for creation realized through the Blessed Alliance of his sons and daughters. The really good news is that the perfect image bearer has now come and through his Spirit, we are empowered, male and female, to fulfill the original mission.

We are right to weep over Genesis 3, but never to despair. No matter how bad things get—the kinds of horrific things I read in Frank’s manuscript, the kinds of things we witness non-stop in today’s world—God has not given up on his creation.

[1] Romans 3:23

[2] Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, (Louisville, KY: John Knox Westminster Press, 2010), 51.

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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