Genesis 3 offers us a story of cosmic treason. A man and woman who are to reflect the dignity, relationships, cooperation of the holy God, ignore the majesty of God and worship the false idea of being something more. What is the 'short term fix of power or pleasure?" There is something that I am supposed to have. What I have is not enough. Dignity is not enough. Having relationships that will be fruitful and expand throughout this creation is not enough. You and I working together in the presence of God is not enough. Being made in their image and according to their likeness is not enough. The fall offers us the extensive damage that has been done to our relationship with God, with one another, and with creation. Our dignity has been marred. Our relationships will be characterized by domestic abuse, corruption, segregation, sexual disorientation, and death. Our cooperation with one another will become competition, classism, sexism, gentrification, and manipulation. Yet justice must prevail. All that has been made wrong in our dignity, relationships, and cooperation with one another and ultimately God must be made right. "And I will put hostility between you and between the woman, and between your offspring and between her offspring; he will strike you on the head, and you will strike him on the heel" (Genesis 3:15)
I want to continue to trace this thread of dignity, relationships, and cooperation as it relates to social justice. The Exodus is the narrative of redemption for the Israelite people and it is only surpassed by the Redemption and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Exodus narrative offers the framework for the Israelite people to reclaim dignity, the need for fruitful relationships, and cooperation in order to carry out the purposes of God. After four centuries of dwelling in the land of Egypt and suffering under the weight of slavery, God responds to the groans and cries of the Hebrews. He restores the dignity of the people as a unique community of men and women that he declares holy, chosen, and treasured (Deut 7:6). Dignity implies the affirmation of a person or group. Dignity is the recognition people are not property to be moved about as a chess piece or a cog in the machine of a national dynasty. The dignity of the people rests on the activity of God who chooses and redeems. The foundation of the Exodus and the affirmation of dignity on the basis of God, informs the quality of relationships the Hebrews were to have with one another.
Consider for a moment the second half of the Law in Exodus 20: 13-17. Those six commandments emphasize the importance of fruitful relationships within various aspects of the community of faith. Parental, marital, and neighborly relationships are meant to reside in this environment of fruitfulness. When these relationships exists in fruitfulness there is another foundation laid for the mankind to reflect his creator, in dignity, in relationships, and cooperation. The Exodus serves to provide the Hebrews with the opportunity to create an environment of flourishing and central to that flourishing is the tabernacle of God. The latter portion of the Exodus narrative provides the Church with an early example of cooperation in which men and women contribute what they have towards the construction of the tabernacle (Ex 35:4-9). The tabernacle would be the central place where men and women would know atonement, reconciliation, and behold the shekinah glory of God. It is through the cooperation of giving, skilled labor, and corporate worship (Ex 35:30-36:2; 40:1-33) the people begin to experience human flourishing of the highest degree because God was in their midst.
So from Exodus and the beginnings of human flourishing, the Israelites know dignity, relationships, and cooperation. Centuries later, dignity, relationships, and cooperation once again suffer under the weight of idolatry. The poor receive no aid because "pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease" become the life of many (Ezekiel 16:49). Relationships are eroded through theft, oppression, and gentrification (Micah 2:2). The work that is to be accomplished in being a shining light has dimmed and the glory of God has departed Israel (1 Sam 4:21). Exile becomes the new situation of God's man, Israel. God creates Adam and he is exiled from Eden. God creates Israel and they are exiled from the land. When shall justice be brought to the earth?
How will God's project of dignity, relationships, and cooperation be realized and he receive the maximum glory?