The overall story of the Bible has a series of crossroad decisions. All humanity, followed by the Israelites, redefine good and evil and end up in Babylon. They are followed by Jesus, who takes a different path that opens up the way to a new creation.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
The Bible begins with God taking the chaos of the uncreated universe and bringing about the order and beauty of life in the Garden of Eden. As his crowning achievement, God created humanity, who are made in his image(Genesis 1:26), and gave them the privilege of ruling over the rest of God’s creation.
After being told by a serpent to take fruit from the tree to rule on their own terms, the man and woman do so (Genesis 3:1-13). The results are deadly, shown in the immediate following story of Cain and Abel – the first murder (Genesis 4:1-16). Humans strive against one another and are self-protective. Fractured relationships, violence, power-grabs, and a whole civilization, Babylon, that redefines evil as good (Genesis 11:1-9) comes about. So God scatters the people.
The story then turns to two people called out of Babylon by God in Genesis 12: Abram and Sarai (later Abraham and Sarah). God promised that new people would come from Abraham and Sarah, a nation that can make the right choice, unlike the first man and woman. If they succeed, it will open a new way forward for the rest of humanity. The rest of the Bible story is about Abraham’s family, who become the nation of Israel. The rest of the story does not go well.
Abraham’s family gives in to the temptation to redefine good and evil on their own terms. Israel’s prophets were sent by God to warn the people that if they did not return to following God, they would return instead to Babylon as conquered captives. Even with God’s guidance, the people still failed, but the prophets said the story wasn’t over.
To transform the people’s hearts and minds so they could follow God and make the right choices, God would send a new leader to Israel. And so the Old Testament ends.
The biblical story picks up in the New Testament (NT) with Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of Judah’s (the southern kingdom of Israel) line of kings. Jesus came to bring the prophets’ promises to completion. He resisted the tempting evil Adam and Eve had given in to. Jesus taught that God had arrived to rule the world through himself. He taught about God’s definition of good and evil, that real power is serving, not conquering others.
The story goes on to show that Jesus is God become human. Jesus became for all humanity what we could never be. He took the punishment for our sin onto himself and proved that he was more powerful than evil and death itself. Humanity now has a new choice represented by a new tree (Jesus’s cross): follow the old human story or death and decay, or follow Jesus into the new one. People who are loved and forgiven by God can show love and forgiveness to others.
The Jesus movement spread quickly across the Roman Empire, forming new communities of Jesus-followers. They faced persecution from the outside and strife and sin on the inside. The Christian community leaders, called Apostles, sent letters to different communities to encourage them and help them remain faithful to the way of Jesus.
The Bible ends by pointing to the future day when heaven and earth are united, and humanity can finally rule together with God as it was always intended.
Talk About It
- What role did God give Adam and Eve before they sinned
- How do we still live out or fail to live out that original role today?
- What choice did God give Adam and Eve in the garden?
- Why is it so tempting to eat the “forbidden fruit” and define good and evil on our own terms?
- In what ways do we personally seek to “redefine” good and evil? Why are we tempted to do this?
- Why do you suppose it took so many generations for Jesus, the promised Messiah, to arrive?
- Why did Jesus need to save us? What does this mean for us today?
- How does God/Jesus’ definition of good, as serving others and practicing self-sacrificial love, ultimately triumph over the evil we often choose for ourselves?