Life Together: The Life God Created Us to Live

In Confessions, Saint Augustine mentions how some people ask the question, “What was God doing before he made the heavens and earth?” He answers by basically saying that God was preparing hell for people who ask such questions. I appreciate Augustine’s humorous response because like the question of whether God can build a rock so big that he can’t move it, such questions are irrelevant and ridiculous. Good theology reflects instead upon God’s revelation of himself to us and how is at work among us. Such theological reflection allows us to also understand how we are called to serve as participants in the mission of God.

Life Together PictureIn reflecting on God and his work, we gain insight into the life for which we have been created and are being redeemed to live as followers of Jesus Christ.* So when we come to the Genesis creation narrative, we discover that the heavens and earth are the cosmic temple in which God dwells as the king (Wenham, Rethinking Genesis 1-11, 16; Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, 83-84). Yet God is at work doing even more.

Genesis one reminds us that what God has created is good. So we must reject any ideas of platonic dualism in which physical creation is something bad that we need to overcome or escape. Instead, we happily find ourselves among creation and here is our first hint as to why… “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground” (Gen 1:28). So among the garden, God is cultivating a life that is sustainable and enjoyable for all of creation and we are to participate with God in the cultivation of this life.

“The Genesis creation narrative imagines us as part of God’s community participating with God in the continued cultivation of his community.”

Chapter two of Genesis offers another portrayal of God creating that expands further on this life that God has created us to live. First, we are told in vv. 15-17, “The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it. The Lord God commanded the human, ‘Eat your fill from all of the garden’s trees; but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because on the day you eat from it, you will die!'” Walter Bruegemann identifies three characteristics of the life God envisions here vocation, permission, and prohibition (Genesis, p. 46). In other words, God has created us to work and gives us much freedom to use our abilities but God also places some restrictions. Secondly, the male is alone and in need of a suitable “helper” (vv. 18, 20) who will become “one” (v. 24) as they multiply in offspring. The idea of a “helper” does not imply any sense of inferiority since elsewhere in scripture the Hebrew word ‘êzer is used to describe God as a helper of Israel and the Bible is not ascribing an inferior status to God. The point is that God has created us to live in community with others.

So God is at work creating an enduring community that continues growing and developing. The Genesis creation narrative imagines us as part of God’s community participating with God in the continued cultivation of his community. Absent here are any notions of the individuality and autonomy that says we can live life apart from the help of God and each other. But do we understand what that means?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter…” (Life Together, p. 27) In other words, if we love our vision of community more than we love the community then we destroy the community we actually live among. That seems very important because if we’re honest, I think sometimes we are more interested in our vision of community rather than listening to God. That is, we don’t mind the work it takes to cultivate community and we certainly love the idea of freedom but we treat the notion of having any restrictions on our freedom as an insult to our human dignity. Yet, we seem better at destroying the community of God’s creation than cultivating a life that is sustainable and enjoyable for all of God’s creation. So maybe it’s time that we start listening to God again as to how we should care for his creation rather than playing God by determining for ourselves what is right and wrong.

As a pastor, I believe in Jesus and I believe that it is ultimately God’s self-revelation in the person of Jesus where we learn how to live as God’s true community. It is Jesus who teaches us how to love the community… Love God, love our neighbors, and even our enemies. Is that what we want? And if so, are we going to listen to Jesus? Or are we more in love with our own vision of community than joining with God in cultivating the life Jesus gave his life for?


* You might also be interested in listening to the sermon podcast of the message I preached on Genesis 2:15-25 called Life Together, which can be accused on the website of the Newark Church of Christ.

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3 responses to “Life Together: The Life God Created Us to Live

  1. I have tried everything I could imagine to post on FB but nothing seemed to work.
    While commenting to a post by K. Rex Butts, I told him I was researching information regarding the topic of his post; I expected the results to larger than would normally be posted in a comment. Therefore I would make it a post. I cannot find a method to display a spreadsheet on FB nor even to make it into a picture to post.
    Bible Words church community assembly congregation Totals
    Trans and Year NT NT NT NT
    DRB 1582 107 0 5 1 113
    KJV 1769 114 0 5 1 120
    WEBSTER 1833 111 0 5 1 117
    YLT 1862 0 0 79 0 79
    DARBY 1867 0 0 79 1 80
    ASV 1881 107 0 6 1 114
    RV 1881 107 0 6 1 114
    WEB 1901 0 0 80 1 81
    BBE 1949 128 0 0 0 128
    MKJV 1962 107 0 6 1 114
    NIV 1973 114 1 10 2 127
    LITV 1976 0 0 77 2 79
    NKJV 1982 107 0 8 2 117
    ERV 1987 112 0 0 0 112
    GNB 1992 119 0 0 0 119
    GW 1995 106 3 5 8 122
    NIrV 1995 127 1 0 0 128
    CEV 1995 119 0 0 0 119
    ISV 1996 103 2 7 5 117
    JUB 2000 0 0 3 113 116
    ESV 2001 106 0 8 4 118
    LEB 2010 105 4 11 2 122
    TLV2014 0 75 6 1 82
    Totals 1899 86 406 147

    Bible Words OT church assembly company Totals
    community congregation companies

    DRB 1582 29 0 60 101 60 21 271
    KJV 1769 0 0 44 363 63 16 486
    WEBSTER 1833 0 0 44 333 57 16 450
    YLT 1862 0 0 120 2 156 4 282
    DARBY 1867 0 0 158 101 25 9 293
    ASV 1881 0 0 116 130 52 15 313
    RV 1881 0 0 71 183 43 16 313
    WEB 1901 0 2 126 134 54 16 332
    BBE 1949 0 0 0 0 14 0 14
    MKJV 1962 0 0 33 326 51 11 421
    NIV 1973 0 0 133 2 37 10 182
    LITV 1976 0 0 83 278 46 8 415
    NKJV 1982 0 0 123 139 42 12 316
    ERV 1987 0 15 20 0 0 0 35
    GNB 1992 0 96 24 0 16 2 138
    GW 1995 0 2 92 42 19 10 165
    NIrV 1995 0 183 0 0 63 42 288
    CEV 1995 0 41 0 0 1 0 42
    ISV 1996 0 69 86 75 66 18 314
    JUB 2000 0 0 25 236 58 22 341
    ESV 2001 0 0 102 132 64 22 320
    LEB 2010 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
    TLV2014 0 76 100 81 25 1 283
    Totals 29 484 1560 2658 1012 271
    The word being used lately “community” to identify followers of Christ, was what caught my attention to make this study. Notice that the first usage of this word in NT by any translation was 1973. I can show in the second spreadsheet that this word was used very often in the OT. It then becomes easy to see that individuals who want to deny the great change in the present Covenant from the previous desire to apply the terminology from the past. In actuality they also reject Christ as being the new ruler of this period of time. Notice that this word “community” was not placed into the NT with any volume until the TLV 2014. The TLV is a new Bible translation, produced by Messianic Jewish and Christian scholars, which highlights the rich Hebrew roots of the Christian faith. Looks to me that there is an attempt to modify Christ’s Body of believers with Hebrew roots. Attempting to merge both covenants into one.
    You should have my email now, feel free to contact me. I would like to communicate more about this subject,

    • I don’t have any interest in discussing (and certainly debating) this issue with you. My use of the word “Community” is a contextualized way of speaking about the church as a body of believers in Jesus who belong to the new covenant and thereby submit their lives to each other and to Jesus as Lord. So there isn’t any rejection of Jesus Christ on my part. End of discussion!

  2. I see that my retyping of all these spread sheets was useless. Contact me and I’ll send you the Excel version.

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