By David Williamson.
I was reflecting on the early chapters of Genesis from a faith and work, theology of work perspective this past week, thinking about how God uses our work to bring order out of chaos, when we began experiencing racial unrest across the globe. I thought of another, perhaps more basic way of understanding the process of God creating “order out of chaos.”
“The earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2 – literally a “watery abyss”). Into the “face of the deep,” the formless and chaotic void, God’s light shines. Perhaps it reveals, hidden in the watery abyss, the fundamental injustice of that which has not yet been exposed to God’s life-giving light.
Perhaps we can think of injustice, like police brutality, as a formless void that needs to be exposed and brought to the light of God’s life-giving presence and activity. Justice is more than what the eye can see. It requires God’s life-giving light to shine into the deep, expose hidden injustice and bring us to light of Christ that brings life. Injustice often lies hidden in the deep recesses of the watery abyss, and manifests itself as chaos. The heart and life-giving work of God exposes the injustice, hidden but active in the abyss. “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us, we wait for light….and for brightness, a righteous branch who will execute justice and righteousness” (Isaiah 59:9).
Forming, shaping, creating order of out nothing is the first thing that the creator God does, as God “begins to create.” Genesis 1:2 says: “And the earth was a formless void” when God “started to create” (Genesis 1:1). The social fabric in America, and in some ways around the world, has seemed like a “formless void,” with darkness covering the heavens and the earth, waiting for a “wind from God” (1:2) that would “sweep over the face of the waters.” A formless void, or “a watery abyss” – raw material that was without clear meaning or purpose, out of control, with no definition or apparent purpose except to celebrate chaos. There it is, the “watery abyss,” ready, waiting, needing to be formed, have definition, purpose, coming through God’s word – his command at Genesis 1:3, “let there be light” – and the separation of the darkness, the night from the day and the light.
God enters the formless abyss, the formless void, and starts to bring order to chaos, form to the formless void that covered the earth.
The first action or command that begins to bring order to chaos, order to the formless watery abyss, was God saying, “let there be light.” God’s word speaks into the chaos or void, starts to bring definition, order and light in the midst of darkness; form, clarity and a framework.
Perhaps the chaos this week has within it the beginnings of an uncovering of what has been hidden, in the watery abyss, and a painful first step – or a pre-step – to bring greater clarity, vision and definition, a productive or intrinsic value, that will lead to clearer understanding, light and definition – order to the chaos. Being able to see the chaos is necessary to form or re-form the chaotic world into that which God designed and intended. Intended order is important. God sees the chaos, and a just order is his dream, his idea to begin with. Simply living with the disorder and chaos, covered over, hinders the true order that God intended to bring when he began to create the world.
Honestly and courageously, the enlightening God, bringing light to the darkness, exposing what is in the watery abyss and bringing it to the light, starts the creative work of bringing order to the chaos.
Indeed this is the first action and command God gives in the beginning of creation: Order to Chaos. Separating light and darkness in human relationships is the first and most important way God gives form to the formless, order to the chaos. Purpose, meaning, vision, God’s intention for our working lives – anything we do and all that we do to bring order simply echoes God’s purpose intention, his first act of creation. Maybe the key is remembering that in our working relationships, we are called to bring order, and not add to the watery abyss.
God acts and brings light to the darkness.