The Christmas season is upon us, and this year I’m grateful that Mutuality has guided my thoughts to an unusual Christmas text: Genesis 1–3, the creation account. This is, after all, where everything begins—history, life, and even Christmas.
I tend to think of Christmas as the beginning of the story. But Christmas isn’t a starting point so much as a turning point. Jesus didn’t come to start something new, but to restore something old. To restore God’s beloved creatures to right relationship with God and with one another and to remind us that those are two sides of the same coin.
Without Genesis, we wouldn’t need Christmas. Genesis tells the story of how it all went wrong. God clothed himself in humanity to undo what Adam and Eve did. To put the world back how it was meant to be.
And without Genesis, we’d know a lot less about the destination of Christmas, because Genesis is also the story of what it looks like when nothing is wrong. It gives us a glimpse of the world Jesus came to restore (though Eden may be only a shadow of the glory to come). Genesis shows us God’s intent for our world. If we are to do Jesus’ work of restoration, we need to understand how things were meant to be.
But of course, we don’t agree on how God meant things to be. Among our most significant disagreements is the nature of male-female relationships. How did God intend humans, as women and men, to relate to one another? There are at least three main lines of thought:
- Traditional patriarchy. Historically, the church has taught that men are superior to women, and this has justified male dominance over women.
- Complementarians modify patriarchy, teaching that men and women are equal in worth, but are created for fundamentally different purposes. God intends for women to operate under the authority of men and for men to hold authority and lead.
- Egalitarians agree that men and women have equal worth. But they believe that in the beginning, God created men and women to be equal partners in doing God’s work. Men and women were meant to share authority and responsibility in caring for creation. Gender-based authority structures were never part of God’s design.
Somehow, all these contradictory ideas are gleaned from the same few chapters of Genesis. All three claim to be God’s plan from the very beginning. And so all three claim to be the ideal that Jesus came to restore and the ideal that should characterize Christian relationships.
Relationships define much of human life, so understanding God’s design for them is critical. This issue gives us a chance to think carefully about God’s ideal for human relationships as presented in Genesis. We look at what it means to be made in God’s likeness, and why that matters for individuals, relationships, and churches. We trace the history of some of our ideas about Genesis and we offer clarity about some controversial words and ideas in the creation account. And we jump into the New Testament to wrestle with Paul’s famous reference to Genesis in 1 Timothy 2. But we don’t stop here.
We’re taking the “Genesis” theme beyond the pages of Mutuality, as well. Throughout the month, we’re featuring articles, blog posts, and Arise columns on Genesis. And we’ll push past the creation story into the chapters that follow. As we explore Genesis together, we’ll find that mutuality in all human relationships was God’s intent at the beginning, and has been ever since.
As you read, I encourage you to let the creation story add depth to your celebration of Christmas this year. Let’s think about where our story begins, because really, that’s where Jesus is leading us.