The creation story starts with the familiar words, “In the beginning, God.” It goes on to include some physical phenomena, a move of the Spirit, and eventually, man and woman made in “our,” a plural God, image. That verse could have as easily said, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” God is nothing if He is not an interconnected, intensely intimate, multi-person being.
This idea is magnified a thousand times over in the parallel opening of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What does that say if not, “In the beginning was the Relationship.” That’s a phrase I learned from Richard Rohr.
The very nature of God demonstrated to us, and demonstrated through us, is that of relationship. God shows His plurality in the blessing of two nations through Abraham’s sons, the Arabian descendants of Ishmael, and the Children of Blessing, the Israelites, that came from the miracle son, Isaac. God says different tribes and different cultures are still made in His image.
He demonstrates His desire for equality in the division of the Promised Land to all twelve sons of Jacob, though only one, Judah had in himself the lineage that would produce David and eventually Jesus. All men and women equal, though one tribe uniquely appointed.
Jesus, though a Jew, coming to Jews, spent time with the non-religious, the outcast, and even the gentiles. He ate with sinners. He allowed a woman to wash His feet. And Paul finally brings the relationship into perspective when he says, in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus.”
In the beginning was the Relationship. And the call of the people of God is to demonstrate the plurality and equality of the family of God, not just back then, but today. The church has always, when it has been good, been a bastion of acceptance, advancement, and affirmation of all races, of male and female, of every socio-economic status. We have been, and need to be, a place where men and women of every creed and color feel welcome and valued. The church is and should be a place where there is no “them and us” but only the beloved we, the children of God.
February is Black History Month. In the relationship of God’s people, that means it is our history month. Whether we are black or white, it is our opportunity to celebrate the challenges and the courageous successes of our brothers and sisters of color. It is our time to acknowledge the tremendous contributions and accomplishments of Black men and women, in our nation and in our world. Black History Month is our month, as a church. It is our chance to be an example of what if means to be “in Christ.” It is our time to say to the world, “We are all created in the image of God. We are known by our love for one another.” It is our time to demonstrate that before there was anything else, there was the Relationship.