Genesis 1:26-31 & 2:15-25
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in out likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Many of us seem to spend our entire lives trying to figure out who we are, wrestling with broken identities and flawed imaginations. When we come in contact with the Gospel we begin to understand that our identity is not based on what we’ve achieved, or even who we are; instead, it is based on what the Creator of the universe did for us when he died as a sacrifice on a cross to heal our brokenness.
In addition to this, the Bible says all sorts of things about who we are now that Jesus has done that for us. It calls us new creations, temples of God, children of God, heirs with Jesus himself, lights to the world; all in an attempt to help us understand what Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished at the very core of who we are as individuals.
Whilst all of that is extraordinarily helpful, in our individualistic and independence idolising society it also leaves us ripe for temptation if we only ever think of our identity in the context of “me”. We begin to see ourselves as special and unique, pride begins to slip in, and we subconsciously decide that there is something about us that is a step ahead of some of those around us.
To confront and combat these temptations we need to begin to understand that the Bible places the context for understanding our individual identities not in “me”, but in “us”. We can only truly know who each of us are through the context of community.
Let me explain.
In Genesis chapter 1 as God is about to create mankind he says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. We not only discover in these few words that God is not an individual, He is some sort of communal entity (“us” and “our”), but we also learn that this communal aspect of God is what we were designed to reflect and be the images of.
This is why loneliness kills (I once read an article about an orphanage in Eastern Europe that found survival rates of abandoned babies increased massively if they had compassionate human contact every day, regardless of other conditions).
This is why we always feel more alive, at least for a period of time, when we are in the company of others.
This is why as a human race we have always leant towards cities and places of dense population.
We were designed to live and breathe and worship in community.
Within the Christian context the Bible has a word for the communal aspect to our existence; it calls it “church”. I expect that even amongst the very few people that will read this blog, we will have massively different views of what “church” is. Regardless of what our experience of “church” has been, which has most likely formed our opinion of it, its original intention (and what I believe God still wants it to be) was to be a community of people who’ve become aware of being saved through Jesus’ faithfulness. A body, depending and supporting on each other, as it reaches out into the communities that it finds itself in.
Let’s go back to the creation story in Genesis now, but through the apostle Paul.
In the book of Romans Paul describes Jesus as the “second Adam”. He mentions a number of things that Adam put wrong through his disobedience that Jesus, the second Adam, put right through his obedience.
I have recently been reading a book called “Jesus: A Theography” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. Towards the start of this book they raise the question that if Jesus is the second Adam, who is the second Eve?
You see, Adam wasn’t alone for long in the garden, God gave him a “helper” in the form of Eve; who had a pretty significant role in the fall of mankind as well. Sweet and Viola suggest that “the church” is the second Eve, fulfilling in respect to Jesus the role that Eve had in respect to Adam.
Think about it. In Eve’s creation, Adam was put into a deep sleep (the New Testament often refers to death as sleep), a hole was placed into his side and a rib removed, and from the rib Eve was formed. The church was created through Jesus’ death on the cross (you could call it “sleep” in a way as Jesus resurrected three days later), where a hole was placed in his side and the symbols of birth, blood and water, gushed out. God refers to Eve as Adam’s helper at the time of her creation. Paul will later refer to the church in Rome as Jesus’ co-heirs, or partners. Genesis gives us the famous picture of marriage when it talks about Adam and Eve becoming one flesh, man leaving his father and mother to be united to his wife, being naked and there being no shame, etc. The church is often referred to as “the Bride of Christ” in the New Testament, Jesus left his Father in heaven to come to earth and be united with us as he was united to God the Father, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice and blood there is no shame left between Jesus and his church.
We could go on; it makes for pretty compelling stuff doesn’t it? I love those moments in life when somebody says something true that you haven’t heard before and it’s like a whole new world has just been created.
So, back to the task at hand. If we can only understand our identity through the context of community, and our context of community is “church”, and “church” is the second Eve, what can we learn from Eve about who we are as a church?
I’ve already mentioned that Eve was called Adam’s “helper”. In the original Hebrew of this passage that word “helper” comes from two Hebrew words, “ezer kenegdo”. The word “ezer” literally means “lifesaver” and is used about 20 other times in the Old Testament, each time in reference to God saving someone from a difficult situation. The word “kenegdo” means “alongside” and carries a sense of equality with it. This is important, if equality didn’t matter a “helper” could have been found amongst the animals that had been created. But, because God wanted Adam to have a lifesaver that was on equal ground to him, or alongside him, the only way to achieve that was to create the woman from Adam himself.
Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for the church, to begin with through his disciples? He gave them authority (brought them alongside) to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the Gospel (be lifesavers). As the church, we are collectively a “lifesaver” or “rescuer” alongside Jesus, the King, himself.
Now, take a moment and think about all the things that make women so amazing (keep it pure please!). Women are naturally relational, fiercely devoted, nurturing, compassionate, vulnerable, and beautiful. The church is at its heart meant to be relational and loving, not a place or instrument of war. The church is meant to be fiercely devoted to each other and its community, remember, it is here to rescue! The church, like a womb, is a place where people grow and develop and heal. The church is meant to give compassion and help to those that no one else will. The church is meant to be vulnerable and transparent, a hospital for sinners and not a museum of saints. The church is meant to be beautiful (perhaps that’s why so many churches wrestle so profoundly with wanting to be noticed and seen as attractive, just like women do). That beauty should inspire people, be inviting to the world around it, be calming and comforting, and it should nourish something inside each of us.
What an unbelievably amazing calling! That’s our job. That’s our role. To be the second Eve. To be the pinnacle of creation now, just like Eve was then.
If we want to understand who we are this is where we need to start. We are the church. We are the second Eve. We are a lifesaver alongside the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of everything. We are the beauty and pinnacle of God’s creation.
I preached about this at Christ Church in Woodbury, Devon this morning (for some reason God seems to always use them as a testing ground for the newer things that God is laying on my heart, so a big thank you for their patience!). At some point in the future, the audio from the sermon will be able to be found here and then by clicking on “April – June 2013” on the right hand side and finding today’s date with my name.