Genesis: Made for Relationship
Earlier this year, Callie and I watched a show called Alone: Tales from the Arctic. The premise of the show was simple and yet the challenge set before it’s contestants was anything but. 10 people, 10 trained survivalists, 8 men, 2 women, were each dropped off alone in the middle of nowhere Canada, up in the Arctic, and given only a small number of supplies, they were challenged to live off the land and fend for themselves, if any of them could last 100 days on their own, they’d win 1 million dollars. Think about that. 100 days, that would be from now to mid-January. So what do you think? Do you think any of them lasted the full 100 days? Raise your hand if you think, yes, someone did it. Raise your hand if you think, no way, not possible.
Well, to all the hopeful optimists out there, you are right. One person did last the full 100 days. His name was Roland, he survived by killing a musk ox, stayed warm in a rock bunker he somehow built and once and forever created a new standard for what it means to be a man’s man. Though I will say, of the two women who participated, they were the other two of the final three, and beat out all the other men, so that’s pretty cool.
One of the things that was fascinating about this crazy outdoor challenge and human experiment is what it tells us about humanity itself. You see, it wasn’t simply a physical challenge, of who could stay warm enough and well fed enough to survive. It was that, but the challenges went beyond that too. There were also the mental challenges of being so utterly and completely alone. No human interaction. No one to speak to or work with or confide in. They were all on their own. And this relational deficit seemed to be one of the factors among many as to why most all of them didn’t make it the full 100 days. And I kind of wonder just how different the challenge would have been if they simply could have been with and worked with one other person.
All this to say, as I reflect back on this show and its premise, I couldn’t help but hear the words that we hear again today: “It is not good for man to be alone.” It is not good, God says, for you and I as humans to be alone.
As many of you know we’re in the midst of a sermon series on the first part of Genesis 1-11 and for the past few weeks we’ve been looking at the creation story that we find in chapter 1. And last week specifically we looked at what it means to be made in the image of God, and how you and I being made in the image of God means that we reflect God both in who we are and also through what we are called to do.
And so on one hand, being made in the image of God means that we were created to create. As people who are called to reflect our Creator God, who created the world in seven days, we too are called to create, and we do this by heeding the call to be fruitful and multiply, that Is, helping image bearers become Christ followers, and we also do this by subduing the earth, where we take all the potential of this world and make beautiful and useful things out of it, whether we do this as a plumber, or doctor, businesswoman or teacher.
And so on one hand, as people made in the image of God, we have been created to create.
And yet there’s another crucial aspect to what it means to be made in the image of God, something that we didn’t address last week, but something that our scripture today speaks into.
And that is as people made in the image of God, you and I are been made to be in relationship with one another. As people made in the image of God, we as humans aren’t meant to go about life on our own, but rather alongside and with one another. We are relational people who reflect a deeply relational God.
One of the things that we didn’t highlight last week was that there was this unusual grammar detail in our scripture reading. It said this, And God said, “Let us make mankind in our image.” Which is a little weird, right? Here you have God in the singular, speaking in the plural when he says us and our. Which makes you wonder … who is God speaking to when he says, “Let us make mankind in our image.” Is he talking to himself? After all, wasn’t He all alone, all by himself?
Well, no. Not even close. In fact, God’s never been alone. The triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has existed from the very beginning, experiencing the greatest and most intimate fellowship there’s ever been. One God in three persons.
Together they said, “Let us make mankind in our image.” Here you have a relational God creating people in the image of God, reflecting God through their need and existence and love shown through relationship.
So no wonder God looks down upon Adam all by himself and says to himself. “It is not good for man to be alone.” He and everyone that’s come after Him was created to be in relationship.
For the first time, there’s something that’s not good about creation itself, about humanity itself. Echoing before us throughout Genesis 1, set before us on repeat in the first chapter, was this common and consistent declaration. “It is good, it is good, it is good, it is good.” And yet, here in creation, is something that is not good, or at very least incomplete. It is not good for man to be alone.
And so, as we see later on, God creates another human, Eve, and to this Adam rejoices saying “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” Adam rejoices because now here before him is a true partner, an image bearer, a co-laborer, someone who will work and take care of the Garden of Eden with him.
Now, in a few minutes, I want to highlight some of the practical implications and everyday application of this biblical principle that it’s not good for you and I to be alone, but first, I think it’s important that we take a few minutes to zoom in on one particular word that’s used here in Genesis 2. And it’s the word helper.
God’s response to the fact that it’s not good for the man to be alone is to make a helper suitable for him. The implication here is that man, Adam, the first person created by God, is then given Eve, who serves as a helper, plays a helping role.
And this idea of the woman serving as a helper may make modern minds bristle a little bit. We may even find it offensive. And the idea of the woman as a helper may even sound a bit condescending, as though women in general are called to take on a lesser, subordinate role to play.
And friends, I promise you that’s not what’s going on here. I repeat, that’s not the idea here in Genesis 2. Please set any negative preconceived notions aside and replace them with this better one:
The term helper here does not imply that the helper, the woman, is either stronger or weaker than the one helped, the man. Rather, the “helper” (the woman) is one who supplies strength in the area that is lacking in “the helped” (the man). About this helper, God describes that He will create one that is “suitable for him.” That is, they are complimentary. They fit. They make each other better. They’re like peanut butter and jelly. Sure, they’re good by themselves, but gosh, they’re even better together.
Here are a couple ways in which this plays out between Callie and me. One is through my capacity to serve you all as pastor. You see Callie in a very real way serves you all by serving me. Whether it be in reading my sermons beforehand, God bless her, ironing my shirts, making pastoral visits with me, and even allowing me to pick her brain about church stuff over the dinner table. As I like to say, the only way I get anything done is because I have a wife who can pretty much do it all.
But of course, that’s not to say that Callie is just a really great team player and willing to sacrifice on my behalf. Lord knows, she has, and this you already know by the way, Callie has gifts and abilities and knowledge that I do not. When it comes to the side of parenting where you try and reason with a toddler, I feel like I fail more times than not. But then Callie will come over and reason with Noah, calm him down, explain something to him in a way he understands and I’m just like, “How did you do that? What’s your secret?” And some of it has to do with her work with the Early Childhood Coalition as well as her experience for 5 years as a middle school counselor. And sometimes both toddlers and teenagers present a similar challenge of trying to reason with the unreasonable. And if you’re wondering what the Early Childhood Coalition is, you should ask Callie after the service. She and the team she’s a part of are up to some pretty cool things.
Those are a couple ways in which Callie serves this incredible, godly role as a “helper” and I’m so crazy thankful for her. And just in case we might be tempted to think that this servant / helper like role is something that women are called to play that men do not, consider what Paul says to husbands, when he says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” And how exactly did Christ loved the church? By serving, of course. For men and women, young and old, married and single, this call to love through serving goes both ways.
So friends, here’s one challenge for us all. I want to encourage you to ask one person in your life, “How can I serve you, or how can I serve alongside you these days?” Whether it be your spouse or your kid, your roommate or your coworker. Ask that question and see where that takes you.
And if by chance I still haven’t convinced you, let me see if I can win you over with this story:
There’s an old story about former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara … I don’t know if this story is actually true, I just know I want it to be true … As the story goes, George and Barbara were in the presidential limo driving back from an event. Their driver had to pull over for gas. As they did Ms. Bush recognized the gas station owner, a man of a similar age, she runs out of the car, and gave this man a great big hug. It was her old high school boyfriend. They caught up for a few minutes, introduced George to him and then the two of them jumped back in the limo and they were on their way. Back in the car, George said to Barbara, “So let me get this straight. If you had married him, you’d be the wife of a gas station attendant. But instead, you married me, the most powerful man in the world, and you got to be the First Lady of the United States.” Barbara looked back at him with a sparkle in her eye and said, “Oh George, don’t be silly! If I had married him, he would be president!” I love that story and I’m just going to let that one speak for itself …
Now let me get back to what I promised I would address earlier. What are the practical implications and everyday application of this biblical principle that it’s not good for you and I to be alone?
Well, one would be to prioritize and make time for the local church. Make time for and invest in relationships within your church. And if that sounds a little self-serving on my part, then fair enough. But if you’re wanting to develop spiritual friendships, if you’re looking for people who can grow and encourage and challenge you in your faith in Christ, if you’re looking for people to serve alongside, well, there is (or at least there should be) no better place for all of that than the local church.
Sometimes here in Montana (and this was true back in Washington as well) people share this preference for a lone ranger type faith, or a kind of I connect with God in the mountains and creation type spirituality, and all of that can have its place and can be fruitful and meaningful and yes, solitude does have its place in the Christian life.
But yet notice the elements that are in place here for Adam. He’s got himself, he’s with the Lord, and he’s in midst of creation, at the center of a beautiful garden, and yet God still says, “it’s not good for humankind to be alone.”
To be together is for our good. After all, think about how encouraging and powerful it is to look across the sanctuary and see a recent widow, having lost their loved one, to sing, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.” Or to see a 5 year old bowing their head in prayer and then reciting the Lord’s Prayer with you. Or to see someone who’s just lost their job and feeling like they’ve run out of options, to hear other faithful Christians sing, “In Christ alone, my hope is found.”
We need each other. That kind of human connection and spiritual encouragement puts wind in our sails.
In addition to worship, maybe consider joining us for our prayer walk after the service. We’re going to spend an hour walking to various places around town here praying our schools, businesses, churches and more, not only to lift up before the Lord ways in which we can be praying for our town but also so that you and I would begin to look at our town in a new light beginning to wonder how we can bring Jesus’s light and love to our town as well. And sure, that’s something that we could each on our own and by ourselves and that would be perfectly fine, but by going together as a group, we remind each other of the fact that we have a shared calling and responsibility not only as Christians, but as a church to be a blessing to the outside world and also it gives us encouragement and strength to keep going. After all, when Jesus, having raised up the 12 disciples, when he sent them out to preach the gospel and heal the sick didn’t send them out 1 by 1, but rather 2 by 2.
So maybe join us for that, and yet, here’s another idea. In addition to asking someone how you can serve them or serve alongside them, ask someone this question (and this one is in your sermon notes), “What’s the best thing going on in your life right now and what’s something hard about your life right now?” With that question alone you learn about something you can celebrate with that person as well as something you can pray about on their behalf. And maybe make it a point to ask that question of someone you haven’t seen either around town or here at church for a while. You can ask them question over the phone, or on a walk, or over coffee, whatever setting you feel most comfortable in, ask someone that question and see where that goes.
So there you go. A few thoughts and ideas and practical application for how we can live in light of this biblical principle, that it is not good for you and I to be alone.
And I’ll finish with this:
Genesis 1 and 2 in many ways give us a glimpse of a perfect world. A world full of goodness and potential, and a glimpse of what the world looked like before sin tainted it all. And yet, weaved into this creation story is a reminder of our neediness. You and I were created with needs to be filled. We need to food to eat, water to drink, and we were made as people in need of relationship. It’s not good for us to be alone. We were made for relationship. We’ve been wired with neediness. And it’s a reminder that our neediness is not a bad thing or a sinful thing, but a very good thing indeed.
And our need and dependance on one another, our peanut butter and jelly better togetherness, ultimately points us to our need for an even greater relationship. Our relationship with Christ. For here the bible begins with a marriage of sorts between Adam and Eve and finishes with one too, between Christ and his bride, that is, the church. The bible both begins and ends with a wedding. Ultimately pointing us to the relationship that matters most, with Jesus himself. So whether you’re married or single, male or female, young or old, extrovert or introvert, (that’s right us introverts need people too), may we feel and experience the joy and gladness of human relationships, and may our need for one another point us to our greater need, Jesus himself.