Byron serves as pastor of discipleship at Bay Park Baptist Church (Ontario, Canada) and has recently joined the Worldview Church content team as an associate editor. His area of special is the Church, as the Lord’s set-apart people.
Not good to good
That community is a key aspect of God’s purposes is clear from the earliest Scripture accounts. The first affirmation of this is the creation narratives. While the account given in Genesis 1 sets forth the making of the cosmos, Genesis 2 focuses particularly on the creation of people. It starts with the creation of man, moves to the preparation of a garden home for him, and recounts how his needs are met in the gift of food and of work. All of this is seen as good.
At this point a dissonant note is struck as the narrative is interrupted by God’s evaluation that something is amiss. “It is not good that the man should be alone . . . .” (Gen. 2:18). The absence of meaningful human community is identified as a problem. To bring the man to understand his predicament, God has him name all the other creatures. In naming them, he is doing his work of stewarding his world, for part of mastery is to be able to categorize and name what is being studied.
In the process, as the man notes the male and female complements within the natural order, he realizes that he is alone: “But for Adam, there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:20).
Three integral relationships
Now one might object that surely Adam had a unique and harmonious relationship with his world. Given that he too is a creature, surely the “fellowship” with the rest of the natural order should have been sufficient? Adam does indeed have a relationship with the created order of which he is a part, but, while necessary, it is not a sufficient community for him. Worldviews which suggest that the great purpose of life is simply to achieve harmony with the natural realm stop short of what Scripture affirms.
While evangelicals may have for too long neglected this important relationship with the creation, it cannot be the totality of our concerns and, in itself, cannot satisfy the longings of the soul.
On the other hand, one might ask, “Did not Adam have a relationship with God?” How could God declare that he was “alone” in light of the special link that he had with his Creator? Did not Jesus himself say that “This is life eternal, to know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:3)? What more could Adam have desired?
Indeed no human heart can ever find satisfaction without a vibrant, dynamic relationship with God. That was Augustine’s contention when he wrote in his Confessions, “You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” We must indeed nurture our relationship with God as evangelicals consistently insist. But the text will not allow us to make our relationship with God the final word either.
The text insists that human society is also vital to wholeness. That is why God undertakes to form a partner for the man. It is in the creation of a human partner that the third dimension of relationships that bring wholeness to people is to be discovered.
A helper and a community
The text describes the creation of the woman. Adam is put into a deep sleep and God does surgery, taking one of his ribs and forming the woman from it. When the woman is subsequently brought to the man, Adam exclaims, “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). The connection between the two is of a different order than that between humanity and creatures and the man and his God. Adam finds in Eve a helper suitable for him.
The relationship that they form with one another is a marriage. But as the traditional marriage ceremony states, it is the highest form of human society. So while this story emphasizes marriage as a God-ordained institution, it points beyond this to the necessity of human community. Human beings will thrive only where there is healthy community.
So it is in the interaction of these three relationships – with God, with the natural world and with one another – that the human person is fulfilled. Pastors and church leaders must be mindful at all times of the need for nurturing all three of these relationships. Thus true community – in all its dimensions – can grow within the local congregation and the Body of Christ, and reflect a measure of that original “very good” of God.
For more insight to this topic, order the book, Life Together, by Dietrick Bonhoeffer, from our online store. You might also benefit from reading the article, “Restoring Community,” by T. M. Moore.