1. The kingdom pattern established: Eden
The Bible begins with the establishment of the ideal. God creates everything by his powerful word, and it is just how he wants it—it is good (Gen 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). His work of creation culminates in a day of no work, the day when creation enjoys the blessings of God. In this blessed, perfect creation, there are perfect, ordered relationships between God and mankind, within mankind, and between mankind and the rest of creation.
From this ideal three points can be identified in relation to our question of personal security:
1. The relationships that we observe within humanity, between the man and the woman, are perfect. They complement each other perfectly. There is no power struggle, threat or shame in their relationship, as demonstrated in their nakedness before one another (Gen 2:25).
2. Life, especially human life is valuable, a gift from God and a gracious part of God’s creation. The man and the woman are created in the image of God, the only members of creation to have this privilege. Their life and their special relationship with God is an essential part of the ‘good’ creation.
3. In this ideal situation, there is order. Relationships are perfect, tasks are perfect and carried out perfectly, and the blessings of God are abundant—within the boundaries of God-ordained restrictions. Every tree in the garden is good for eating, but the man and the woman are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as that will result in death (Gen 2:16-17). Within the context of his ideal, God is the ruler and he exercises his dominion over his creation through the establishment, and as we will see, upholding of expectations.
If we were to stop our investigation at the end of Genesis 2, personal security would be a non-issue. There is no threat, no trouble, no disturbance to the perfect life that mankind enjoys under the blessing of God.
2. The fall: Adam’s sin
In Genesis 3 the perfect Eden-life is fundamentally disrupted. God’s word is doubted, his dominion is challenged, and as a result his creation suffers.
No longer is Eden the perfect work environment for a perfectly suited gardener. Instead it is a place of sweat, pain and toil.
No longer are human relationships complementary and perfect. Instead they become the scenes of argument, struggle and conflict. The God-given task of multiplying and subduing the earth is now accompanied by the pain of childbirth.
God drives humanity out of Eden, removing them from the cherished tree of life, thus allowing the unnatural spectre of death to enter human existence (Gen 3:24).
Within a chapter of sin entering the world, individuals feel the sting of death through violence. In an angry reaction to not being accepted by God, Cain murders his brother Abel (Gen 4:8). Within five generations Lamech proudly declares his strength to his wives, boasting that in response to an injury he suffered, he has killed his attacker (Gen 4:23-24).
By the time God is grieving because every intention of the thoughts of mankind’s heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5), violence is a well established, ‘normal’ part of the post-Eden culture.
However, in the context of God’s post-flood re-creation commission to Noah, the importance of human life in the image of God, and the seriousness of the taking of life (including, but not only through violence) is reiterated (Gen 9:5-6).
As we observe these perfection-destroying but world-shaping events, it is clear that human life is no longer the assumed gift that it once was. No longer is there a level of ‘common decency’ that can be expected in interpersonal behaviour. In fact, perhaps it is the exact opposite. Perhaps what we once viewed as normal—a peaceful life, free of threats or violence, people treating us the way we would like to be treated—has now become the exception. Perhaps the question we are now forced to ask about our personal security is not “If we were suffer some kind of threat what would be our response?” but “When we suffer a threat, how will we respond?”
With a fundamentally changed humanity and the rapidly developing consequences of that change, we enter the next phase of kingdom development with a very pessimistic view of humanity.