In the previous section we introduced the idea of the story of God’s involvement with us as like a play in six acts. We also looked at the first ‘Act’, the creation of all that exists. Now we go on to Act 2: ‘Rebellion’.
God decided to give human beings the terrifying gift of free will. We can understand why God would do that. If we created an android and programmed it with a microchip requiring it to love us, that might be an enjoyable experience for us for a while, but eventually it would come to seem hollow, because we would know that our android had no choice in the matter. In the same way, if God had simply created human beings with no choice about whether or not they would love God, their love would not be real, because real love requires freedom of choice.
In Genesis chapter 3 we read about how the first human beings we tempted by a snake – an obvious symbol for the forces of evil – to step outside God’s will for them and choose their own road instead. They were told that if they did this, “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, all quotes from NIV 2011). They gave way to this temptation, and as a result, sin and brokenness entered their lives.
Not only was their relationship of trust and love with God broken, but also their relationships with each other and with the world around them were disrupted. They were evicted from their beautiful garden home, a symbolic way of saying that paradise was lost to them as a result of their choice to rebel against God. Their sin had an effect on the natural world around them as well; God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Genesis 3:17-18).
This story teaches that the world as we see it now is not the world as God intended it to be. It has been infected with evil. This evil is not just a force external to us as human beings. Jesus told us that it is in us as well, in our ‘hearts’. He said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, from a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
A good way of summing up what we have learned from Acts 1 and 2 is a scene from the old Robin Williams movie Good Morning Vietnam. In this scene Louis Armstrong is singing his song ‘What a Wonderful World’. It paints a lovely picture of green trees and red roses, blue skies with white clouds, and friends shaking hands. But as Rico Tice points out in Christianity Explored, the song says one thing but the pictures in the movie say another. They are pictures of war in Vietnam. As we are told that the roses ‘bloom for me and you’, we see a child in the foreground and a bomb going off in the background. As we hear the words, ‘the colours of the rainbow so pretty in the sky’, we see protesters being beaten up and a young man being shot. And, most poignant of all, the chorus, “‘I say to myself, what a wonderful world’ is accompanied by images of the bloodied sandal of a little child.
This is the world as we see it today. It is a place that was made by a good and loving God, and it still contains many signs of God’s goodness and love. Yet we know that it is also infested with evil and sin. Evil has infected God’s good creation and spoiled God’s beautiful plan for the world. Instead of binding the world together, the loudest voices are often those of self-centredness and anger.
But God has not given up on creation. God intends to delve fit from its captivity to evil. And so, stay tuned for Act 3…