Monday, October 1, 2012

Famous First Words

I love hearing stories about the beginnings of relationships. I especially like stories about how people met their spouses. Sometimes, they don't seem particularly special or romantic at the time. For example, a woman who used to work at my current company met her husband at an ESL Bible study. She was his teacher, and the first thing she ever said to him was, “You’re late!”

Stories like this just show how little we know about the future. So often we meet people who will have a huge effect on our lives, but we have no way of knowing it at the time.

But of course, relationships involving God are completely different. He knew everything that would happen in the history of the human race, which makes the first things He said to people especially interesting.

The first thing in the Bible that God said to a human is a blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). There’s a lot that could be said about this verse, but I want to focus on the kind of relationship it suggests. When God created people, He wanted them to experience an abundant, fruitful, successful life, which would involve enjoying and taking care of everything in the world.

The next thing he said was, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29). Again, this is God blessing people, giving them an abundance of delicious food and allowing them to enjoy creation. Although the Bible does not mention this specifically, I’d like to point out that this includes chocolate – truly proof that God had our best interests at heart!

The creation account in Genesis 2 focuses more specifically on God’s creation of human beings, and the first recorded words in this account are very similar: “You may surely eat of every tree in the garden …” (Genesis 2:16). Yes, God goes on to give one exception to this sweeping statement, but the main point is still that Adam has an abundance of food – food he didn’t work to grow, because it was right there.

To me, this is a reminder of how central grace is in God’s relationship with us. We Christians tend to think of grace in terms of God’s forgiveness for sin. But any gift that we do not deserve or earn is also grace. Here, God gives grace by blessing people and showering them with gifts before the people have done anything at all.

So unlike the stories of human relationships, the story of God’s relationship with humanity is the same from beginning to end. God has always related to people on the basis of grace, giving generously long before people start serving Him. And God’s grace will continue to be the source of all our blessings even into eternity. In the words of John Newton, “’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”