The Story: In the Beginning, Part 1 (Conflict and Climax)

Introduction

We’re studying “The Story” for the next several months. The Story is the overall, over-arching story that the Bible tells about God.

We need to make a few things clear as we begin. First, by “story” we don’t mean fiction. There are both true stories and made-up stories. For these next few months, we’re telling a true story.

Second, we’re going to tell the big story, the over-arching story by telling a series of smaller stories. Each smaller story is the story of a man’s or woman’s interaction with God. And each smaller story gives us a different perspective on God. Each perspective is true — but each perspective is different.

If you ask my wife to tell you about me, you’ll hear her story. My children will tell you a different story. My parents another. My co-workers yet another. They’ll all be true, and yet they’ll all be very different. In fact, at times, you might even wonder whether these people are talking about the same person! I mean, we’re all complex beings. We show different parts of ourselves at different times. But we’re each just one person.

Adam’s encounter with God is very different from Cain’s. Cain’s is different from Noah’s. Noah’s is different from Abraham’s. But as we work our way through the text and read all the small stories, we’ll begin to see the big story more and more clearly.

Of course, the story doesn’t become completely clear until we get to Jesus. It’s only in Jesus that God fully reveals himself and his purposes. Jesus is the ultimate self-revelation of God. He’s the exciting climax of the story.

And even Jesus doesn’t complete the story — not yet. That comes at the end of time.

The story arc

In a TV series, there is typically an A story and a B story. The A story is the story arc — a story that might take two or three seasons to work out. The B story is a small story told in a single one-hour episode.

In House, each week Dr. House solved a medical diagnosis mystery and cured the patient brilliantly. That’s the B story — the smaller story.

For seasons, the story arc  was whether Dr. House and Dr. Cuddy would find true love together.

In the Bible, the A story is whether God will be able to defeat sin, remove humanity’s brokenness, and return mankind to the joys and innocence of Eden where man and God walk and talk in the Garden together.

The story begins with Adam and Eve living in perfect harmony — not the same but not seeking dominance over each other. Living in perfect unity with each other and with God.

Male and female are both made in God’s image, and both represent God to the created world.

Sin enters the world bringing a curse, and creating broken images, so that man and woman become imperfect, deeply flawed images of God.

God then begins his plan to restore men and women to right relationship with each other and with God.

Stories

Every writer knows that a good story has to have certain elements. It has to have characters that we understand. It’s even better if we identify with them. If we can understand Adam and Eve, the story is better. If we identify with Adam and Eve — if we see ourselves in them — then it’s an even better story.

And a story needs to have conflict. There has to be something not right that needs to be resolved.

And a really good story has a happy ending. A lesson learned. A life improved. An enemy defeated.

Unfortunately, the story of Adam and Eve doesn’t have a happy ending — not in Genesis. It’s a sad story where the “hero” and “heroine” make a mistake — a mistake that we can all identify with — I mean, who here wouldn’t have sinned just as they did?

And so they make a mistake and lose eternal life, they lose the privilege of walking in the Garden with God in the cool of the morning. They lose their innocence. They lose the ability to be naked and feel no shame. (I figure they started to age, they began to look their age, and suddenly fig leaves weren’t nearly good enough — and in his grace, God gave them clothes — but only you older members of the class will understand what I mean).

What kind of story doesn’t have a happy ending? Well, in this case, a story where we lose patience and figure the story ends in Genesis 3 when God kicks them out of the Garden. But if we see the story as stretching for thousands of years — until the coming of Jesus — and even better, until the Second Coming, then we find a happy ending — the kind of ending that only God can provide.

Conflict and climax

What is the conflict we read about in Genesis 1 -3 that has to be resolved to make the story a good story? Well, it’s humanity’s struggle with sin and temptation — and the results of the curse of Creation — the sad results of sin in the world.

If we see God as the hero, then we must ask: What will God do to fix the corruption of the world and the brokenness of humanity resulting from sin? That’s the conflict.

And what is the “climax”? According to the Wikipedia, in a story —

The climax is the turning point, which marks a change, for the better or the worse, in the protagonist’s affairs. If the story is [not a tragedy], things will have gone badly for the protagonist [hero] up to this point; now, the plot will begin to unfold in his or her favor, often requiring the protagonist to draw on hidden inner strengths.

The climax isn’t the end of the story but the moment when things turn around and head toward the ultimate happy conclusion. Things don’t necessarily become easy. They may become even harder — but the hero realizes that his efforts will ultimately be successful if he’ll just persevere.

Well, Adam and Eve were given the rule of the earth (Gen 1:26-28). They lost it, but God gives it back through Jesus. We don’t yet have the fullness of the rule of the earth. That comes later. But we are made responsible for the earth, knowing that in the end, the good, redeemed parts of what we do will survive —

(1Co 3:10-15 NET) 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Adam and Eve were united as husband and wife, one flesh — in a perfect union in which God completed Adam by making Eve for him. But because of sin, marriage became difficult and broken by sin. But God heals marriages through Jesus. Marriage is still hard work, but we know that Jesus gives us what we need to make it work.

“Adam” means man, and Adam and Eve were equals. God made Eve from Adam’s rib — not his head to rule over him or his foot to be walked on by him, but his rib to be his companion.

God calls Eve Adam’s “suitable helper.” In English, “helper” implies inferiority, but in Hebrew, the word almost always refers to God as Israel’s helper. There is nothing in “suitable helper” implying inferiority!

There’s not a hint of male domination over Eve — just unity — until sin enters the world. And Jesus takes away the curse of sin and restores both male and female to God’s created order.

(Gal 3:28 ESV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.[1]

Of course, the world continues to treat men better than women, but we know the direction of God’s redemptive work. We know that we’re headed toward a world in which the created order will be restored.

Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with God, walking and talking with him in total communion, with no separation. But God heals our separation from him in Jesus — allowing us to call God “Abba, Father.”

Again, we sometimes feel separated from God. There are times we draw away. We struggle to feel close to such a perfect being. But we now know that it can happen and does happen. We know to persevere as we seek union with God.

The coming of Jesus 2,000 years ago is just the climax — the turning point — when we know things begin to change, when things begin to get better. But it’s not the denouement — the conclusion of the story. Rather, it’s the moment when we know there’s going to be a happy ending, that sin will be defeated and that our brokenness will finally be healed.

[to be continued]


[1] “Male and female” is an exact quote from Gen 1:27 —

(Gen 1:27 ESV) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

It’s hard to imagine why Paul would specifically negate the created order of male and female, declared in Genesis to be in the “image of God.” The likely reason is that the Jewish rabbis considered only the male to be in God’s image, because only the male could be circumcised — and Galatians is all about circumcision. To be a Jew, a male must be circumcised, and the Jews reasoned that this placed the man in God’s image, because otherwise changing the flesh from its created form would be to mar the very image of God. Hence, only the male is in God’s image.

Paul declares that circumcision is no longer required to be pleasing to God, thus removing the distinction between male and female imagined by the Jews and clearly showing that God considers both male and female to be in his image — worthy of equal honor. Both are baptized. Both are transformed into the image of Jesus.

Thus, Paul rejects the traditional sense of “male and female” as “male (in God’s image) and female (not so much).” Both are equally image bearers, with the brokenness of both redeemed in Jesus.