IN THE BEGINNING ...

When we look at our world today we are tempted to ask 'What's the use?' What is the point of it all? There is so much trauma and suffering, there is so much that is so obviously wrong and evil that it sometimes seems that the atheists and the skeptics are right: that the God of the Bible is just a myth. Our human logic reasons that the God presented in the Bible as powerful and loving simply doesn't exist. If he is all powerful, why does he not do something about the tragedy and pathos of human existence? And if he is all loving, why did he even think of creating a world that would end up in this terrible mess? We reason that we ourselves, even with our limited, imperfect love, would never make a world like this, or allow it to endure thousands of years of suffering. Doubt and unbelief stand knocking on our door and at times the reasonable thing to do seems to be to open the door and let them come in.

 But let us consider this phrase 'in the beginning'.

Genesis 1:1 states 'in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'. In this chapter the emphasis is on what was created and how and when it was created.  We are not told precisely who God is or what he is like, but we can infer from what is recorded about his words and actions that he is powerful and authoritative, so powerful and authoritative that he only has to speak for something to be done. So powerful and authoritative that his word creates life and matter out of nothing. On the basis of this 'in the beginning' there can be no doubt about God's power and authority, and this same power and authority of God is affirmed right through the scripture.

John 1:1-2 takes us back before and beyond the beginning. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.' Here Jesus Christ, the one who proved his love by his sacrificial death for us,  is identified as the eternal God. Further, he is identified as the on-going source of life and light [John 1:3,4,9]. His creative purpose for us, his creatures, is not the ever-present death and darkness which unceasingly hounds us, but light and life.

We need to ask 'What changed?' Why is this good purpose of this powerful and loving God not now in place? Why is the world so different now from what it was 'in the beginning'?

Jesus gives us a pointer in his comments on divorce: 'It was not this way from the beginning' [Matthew 19:8]. In the beginning, in the original creation, things were different. There everything was 'very good' [Genesis 1:31]. There, in the beginning, there was no sin, no suffering, no death.

But this 'very good' lasted only as long as human beings stayed within the boundary set by God in the beginning. Beyond that boundary suffering was inevitable: beyond that boundary life was replaced with death, light was replaced with darkness. This suffering, this death, this darkness is the automatic impact of the human attempt to exist without God, and God had warned that it would be this way ' ... when you eat of it you will surely die' [Genesis 2:17].

There, in the beginning, humans were confronted with a choice: to live with God, or to die without him. In the original creation there was only life. Death, and all that leads to death, entered the world with our human choice to reject God [Genesis 2:17; 3:1-24; Romans 5:12,17].  The hardness of our hearts [Matthew 19:8], our love of darkness rather than light [John 3:19], our rejection of God and of the knowledge of God [Romans 1:18-32] - these are the things that have made life the way it is.

Let us not accuse or doubt God's love and power, for it was not this way in the beginning. Nor will it be this way for ever. In this interim age of suffering, God, in his grace gives us time to return to him, so that we will not be cut off from him for eternity [2 Peter 3:9]. Rather than indicate powerlessness or callous indifference in God, it is his love and his power that sustains us in this imperfect life as he with great patience calls us to repent and believe so that we may escape the greater tragedy of an eternity separated from him.