The History of Human Relations

Four chapters into the greatest book ever written we find the first human brothers, Cain and Abel, separated by anger, envy, and finally murder. The third person to breathe air on our planet killed the fourth. This is the history of the human race in the fallen world.

Don’t forget: we’re only a handful of verses away from Eden. So soon, we read of domestic violence and homicide in the headlines of human news. Too soon, we feel the full weight of our rebellion: our innocence left behind, hanging on a branch in the Garden of Eden.

The scene in the fourth chapter of Genesis shows us that outside of Eden there is no “golden age.” There is a whole lot of pain surrounding a promise that one day God will make all things good again. Our deep struggle to get along finds its origin in the fall of man.

Genesis clearly establishes that we are made with intrinsic worth, created in the image of God. Humans have equality with one another because we have one father, the Creator of all things. But Genesis also shows us how messy these relations are outside of Eden.

As we seek to live out the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, not to mention to love our enemies, we will continually be frustrated if our expectations aren’t informed by the consequences of the curse of sin. Racism, sexism, and elitism are all related realities of being fallen people living in a fallen world. Here are five quick thoughts based on the opening chapters of Genesis about how we should view human relations in our attempt to advance in unity and equality.

One: we are created in the image of God. This is where our worth comes from and where our unity is most fundamentally found. This is at the heart of what it means to be human.

Two: we are fallen and the effects of sin will greatly divide us. Sin divides brother from brother, neighbor from neighbor, and nation from nation. It even divides us from ourselves. Working to get along is far more difficult than we realize.

Three: we are indeed “our brother’s keeper” and must care for one another. In Christ we are called to a ministry of reconciliation, which means we cannot shrug our shoulders and focus on ourselves because the task is too hard. The gospel calls us outside of our self-interests and into the hurts and hopes of others.

Four: even as broken people living in a broken world, God can do amazing things to extend his kingdom as we long for the new creation. We cannot give up hope because all things are possible with God. We should “pray as if it is up to God and work like it is up to us.”

Five: one day there will be an innumerable crowd of people from every tribe and tongue gathered around the throne of Jesus. Racism, sexism, and elitism don’t win in the end. Cain doesn’t win in the end. Jesus does. The serpent-crushing child promised in Genesis, the seed of the woman, will triumph in the end.

Even as we read heart breaking headlines from around the world, or sadly overhear what’s said at the White House, we must continually remind ourselves of the end of history. As we seek to advance the kingdom of God, as we seek to live at peace with all men, as much as possible, we must continually fix our eyes on that day when the lion will lay down with the lamb. Only there will justice truly roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

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I talk a lot about this theme of what it looks like to take the effects of the curse of sin seriously in my new book that comes out next month, Life in the Wild: Fighting for Faith in a Fallen World