At a small group meeting a few weeks ago, my leader posed a straight-forward but difficult question: “Why are you a Christian?” As each of us in the circle took a turn responding, my immediate thought was, simply, “hope.” Because of Christ, I have hope that no matter how overwhelming or difficult situations may become, I believe that they can change for the better—if not now, then certainly in heaven. It is a hope not for an easier life, but for a life more transformed by grace, love, and righteousness.
Since that night, I have also found myself resonating with what a fellow small group member shared, perhaps because it reflects the deeper explanation for why I have such hope: “I am a Christian because the more I read the Bible, the more majestic it becomes to me,” he said. “Humans could not simply come up with all of it on their own. It is simply too beautiful.”
His answer echoes my walk as a Christian over the last six years, since I discovered CBE’s resources. Certain passages, certain figures in the Bible have suddenly become alive to me. It is, in a sense, like scales have fallen off my eyes, as the apostle Paul experienced after his conversion (Acts 9:18). I am able to see the Bible with a new lens, to see it in a way that has produced in me both a profound awe of the ways of God and a deep, very personal comfort.
The Bible is surprising, exciting, and beautiful. Let me share just one example. As I was preparing for a Bible study recently, I was struck by the metaphor of nakedness and clothing in Genesis 3. Before the fall and as part of God’s original design for men and women, Genesis 2:25 describes Adam and Eve as being “naked” and feeling “no shame.”
This nakedness seems to me to be a kind of metaphor for vulnerability, for a sense of intimacy and communion. It conveys authenticity and accuracy; there is no barrier between the man and the woman, nothing to prevent them from seeing each other (and themselves) as God made them. Yet we know this unity does not remain. Richard Hess writes that
These themes [in Gen. 2:25] are introduced in order to prepare the reader for what is to come in Genesis 3, where this harmonious unity would know corruption and distortion due to humanity’s sin. A relationship that was once equally shared in a uniquely complementary design would become burdened with a struggle for authority from which the man would emerge as the ruler (Discovering Biblical Equality, p. 88).
After eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve discover they are naked and ashamed. We then see two references to the clothes that they now wear, first in verse 7 when they make their own coverings and then in verse 21 when God provides clothing for them. Continuing with the metaphor, then, these clothes illustrate disharmony and a lack of perfect unity and intimacy, because there is now a barrier between the man and the woman, as well as between both the man and woman and God. With this inability to live in unity, the man and woman now struggle for authority and power, as Richard Hess highlights in his discussion of Genesis 3:16 (see p. 91-2 in Discovering Biblical Equality).
Now here’s the truly beautiful part. In Galatians 3, as Paul is describing the implications of Christ’s redemption through the cross, we find our beloved verse 28: “For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But what do we read in the verse directly before? “For all of you who were baptized into Christ haveclothed yourselves with Christ (v. 27, emphasis added). These new metaphorical clothes that God has provided for us as Christians enable us to once again live in the unity God established at creation! The separation that once existed between men and women and that resulted in authority of men over women is now replaced with the “clothing of Christ,” in which we can view one another with authenticity and vulnerability, and live in mutual submission and sacrifice. And it is only possible through the total transforming power of Christ, as Mimi Haddad recently illustrated.
Who could have expected something so profound, that Jesus would turn everything upside down, raising the status of everyone by humbling all, and restoring the possibility for authentic unity between men and women, Jews and Gentiles, and slaves and free? The Bible truly is surprising, exciting, and beautiful! It is certainly a reason for deep and persistent hope.