Our Relationship with God and Each Other
God didn’t have to create the world. He chose to. And he chose to create this world out of love. To believe otherwise is to attribute to God a mere hobby, a scientific experiment, or worse, some evil intent, none of which are consistent with an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving God.
God created humankind in his image (Genesis 1:27). It is interesting to note that when God decided to create Eve, he describes her as “Helper” (Gen 2:18) using the word עֵ֖זֶר, ‘ê·zer. All occurrences of this word outside this passage refer to God as the helper (e.g. Deuteronomy 3:29, Psalm 89:19, Psalm 115:9-11 (3x), Daniel 11:34). So the relationship between man and woman was envisioned as the relationship between man and God.
Likewise, when God gives the two humans “dominion” over the earth and all its creatures (Gen 1:28), he uses the word וּרְד֞וּ, ū·rə·ḏū, which means to rule. Leviticus 25:43 and Ezekiel 29:15 both use the same root, making it clear that the model for this “rule” is the just rule of God, not the exploitative rule of human kings.
In the Garden of Eden, then, we see humanity living in communion with God and with each other. Even the relationship between man and woman is based on “helping” based in love, as God helps us. Up to this point, the woman doesn’t even have a name (Gen 3:20), for she and the man are one unit (Gen 2:24). (Lest you think that this is a sexist act, note that Adam’s name is taken from the Hebrew word אֲדָמָה (‘adamah), earth, from which he was made, and is thus more of a descriptor than an identifier. It may even be insightful to consider the relationship between the two descriptors: “earth” and “helper.”)
After they eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge (Gen 3:6), something else begins to happen. They hide from God. When God confronts them, Adam blames his wife. She blames the serpent. Later, Adam gives his wife her own name, reflecting their separation. Cain murders Abel out of jealousy. No longer is there communion with God or between people.
Jesus came to heal that division. He came to reconcile us with God. One of the most poignant reflections of this is Romans 5:10:
“For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”
We became enemies of God, and still he reconciled us to himself through Christ. Through him, we return to communion with God.
Yet Paul opines that this reconciliation is not always reflected, even in the Lord’s Supper:
[W]hen you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. (1 Corinthians 11:17-21)
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink in an unworthy manner without discerning the Lord’s body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)
To participate in this reconciliation with God, we must also reconcile with each other. This does not suppose that reconciling with each other causes us to be reconciled with God, nor that we must reconcile with each other before we can reconcile with God. Rather, I suspect, as with the relationship between grace and works, reconciling with God cannot exclude reconciling with each other as an inevitable consequence.
If we are reconciled with God, we are driven to reconcile with each other.
And if we do not reconcile with each other, how can we fail to question whether we are reconciled with God?