Genesis, the first book of the Bible, starts with something new. A new world that is created and spun into motion by God.
So, you open your Bible, turn to its first pages, and the message from the beginning is, like Paul says later, that we have a “God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not” (Rom 4:17 NIV).
Stop and sit with that for a moment. It is a profound thought. The notion that our God is capable of creating a new world. Of calling into being things that were not.
As we observe a world still rife with school shootings, sexual assault, racism, cancer, and war—despite all the recent advances in technology, medicine, communication, and more—we are left pondering this initial witness of Scripture.
It would seem that if a new a world is going to break into this one, it can only come from a power beyond this world, a power not limited by this world. The only power like that is the one we see on display in Genesis 1, and the one we see again at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Which is to say the cross is a Genesis 1 moment.
As evidence, consider what Paul says in Galatians 6:14-15: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.”
There are three really important words here. The first is “world”—cosmos. It’s the term from which we get the word “cosmic.” It’s the world you and I look at it, but more as well. It’s the way this world is assembled, put together. The unseen. The ideas and values that exist in the space between all created things, holding them together.
Paul is saying there is the world (cosmos) we know, but now another one as well. A “new creation”—a term that reminds of Genesis 1. So, there is this current cosmos, but now there is a new creation breaking in on the scene. A creation where everything is different, assembled differently, held together by different fibers. If it was the same, or just an improvement, we wouldn’t need “creation.”
So, when did it happen? That’s where the third word matters: “cross.” At the cross of Jesus, the old world is crucified, and a new one begins.
As you see, there are definite echoes of Genesis 1 at the cross.
I’ve been reflecting on the cross during the season of Lent, and this insight has been revealing for me. Yet, I find myself wondering if you really can experience new creation while trapped in this one. Can you experience another world?
Daniel Berrigan was a Jesuit priest and peace activist. He was a controversial figure. But there is little controversy about the fact that Berrigan loved Christ deeply, and his actions flowed out of that love.
I was struck recently by this photo of Berrigan, taken when he was arrested for his protests. Notice the two officers on either side of him. They are grimacing. Their work is hard. They are busy with the business of trying to improve the world. A world that seems bent on more self-destruction. I empathize with them. So, their weary and sullen expressions don’t surprise me. Sometimes I probably look similar.
Yet in the middle of the picture is Berrigan, smiling. Smiling despite the cuffs on his wrists, and the arms pushing him at either side.
I can’t credit that smile to anything other than another world. Despite the circumstances. Despite the darkness all around. The sin pressing its way against you and me. Death looming like a shadow. Despite all that, I am convinced you can reside in the grace of God, caught up in his one act of righteousness, and you can smile.
Because of the cross, I’m emboldened to pray that I may see the new creation of God daily, and I will smile whenever I do.
Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.