“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:1, 31).” That’s how the Bible starts. Generations later, the Apostle Paul would say: “For the creation was subjected to frustration…We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:20, 22).”
What happened in the intervening years, that a “very good” creation became a frustrated and groaning one? In short, sin entered the picture – what theologians call “the fall.”
Sin changes both the literal and metaphorical environment. In the creation account, it wasn’t until the sixth day of creation that God made humans. In other words, atmospheres and environments are created by God before the Lord created people to inhabit them.
Part of the image of God in which humans are made is an ability to create. We create our own atmospheres and environments every day. How we think creates red flag ozone warnings or beautiful, clear blue skies. When you get home from work, there is an atmosphere waiting for you. It may be peaceful or toxic, but it is there. When we respond to a crisis we’re creating an environment, good or bad.
Politicians create atmospheres with their rhetoric. The media creates atmospheres with their reporting. Universities create atmospheres with their teaching. Hollywood creates atmospheres like they build movie sets.
I’m convinced Jesus had crowds following him because he created a wonderful life-giving atmosphere everywhere he went – an atmosphere very different from the legalistic religious environment of the day. He touched dead people, lepers, outcasts, and menstruating women. He went across religious boundaries to meet people where they were. He removed red ozone flags.
God’s enemy, Satan, cannot create. He cannot speak things into existence ex Nihilo as God can. Satan is forced to work with materials already available. He can only pervert that which has been created as good. Since he can’t create an environment, he can only poison it. There are plenty of examples…
God made sex, a beautiful union of husband and wife becoming one – Satan has perverted this wonderful gift to what we see today. God made love – Satan twists it into jealousy. God gave us genders – they’re now contentious. God gave wonderfully varied races – it has turned to racism. God gave loyalty – in the devil’s hands it becomes revenge. The devil can influence creator-man to create toxic atmospheres.
That’s why, under the devil’s influence, normally neutral tools can become dangerous. Money is one of these. Jesus teaches that money can be a valuable implement in helping others and opening doors for the message of the Gospel (see Luke 16:9). But greed – the love of money – is the root of all kinds of wickedness and causes great damage (see 1 Tim. 6:10).
There once was a castle in Ireland. Over the years, the castle was uninhabited and fell into disrepair. Neighboring peasants began to scavenge the castle for stones. After all, these were beautiful cut stones they didn’t have to dig out of the ground or hew from a mountain. They were there for the taking. The castle was being dismantled piece by piece.
Lord Londonderry was the last remaining heir and he heard of what was happening to the castle. He visited and saw the sad shape of his inheritance. He ordered his employees to build a wall six feet high around the castle.
Several years later Londonderry returned and found the wall, but no castle. It had vanished into thin air.
When he asked why his orders were not obeyed, the man in charge of the wall replied, “Is it for me to go all around Ireland digging up stone when the finest stone in the land is here?”
He tore down the castle to build a wall. That which he was charged to protect, he consumed.
We’re watching this happen before our eyes. We debate building a wall to keep others out – but the foundation stones on which we built the nation – God, life, liberty – are being destroyed from the inside. Our nation, our beloved, beautiful castle is being dismantled stone by stone. The atmosphere has changed.
I’ll be fifty this year. Things unthinkable when I was a kid are now the law of the land. When I was a kid, we used “socialist” as a put-down – a joke. Back then, a disagreement in ideas didn’t mean you “hated” someone. You debated with ideas not name-calling. Back then, ideas “took” because of merit. Evidence and fact carried more weight than feelings.
I know, I sound like an old man yelling at kids to get out of my yard. How did our beloved nation become toxic? So divided? There’s plenty of blame to go around – on both sides of aisle. But since I can’t do much about the President or Congress or Hollywood or the Academy, I’ll look to myself.
I have neglected my role as a creator and have become a full-time American consumer. I consume people and things for my own pleasure. I consume only what I agree with. I consume only what I want to hear. I have failed to create the atmosphere around me that God wants for me. It’s sometimes toxic – red flag ozone alert.
Paul says it this way: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2, The Message Version).”
As a human, I will consume. That is natural. But the “better angels of our nature (Lincoln)” encourage me to create…to create peace, to show love, to give mercy and grace. Let’s change the atmosphere.