The Air We Breathe – An Introduction

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

  • Genesis 1:27-28

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

  • Genesis 2:23-25

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

  • Genesis 4:3-16

Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

  • Exodus 1:8-11

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

  • Exodus 8:15

“Goldfish don’t see water. Goldfish see what’s in the water, they see what’s refracted through the water, but I assume (yes, assume—I haven’t done the proper investigations) that goldfish don’t see the water itself. And yet there it is. It’s their environment. Universal but invisible. It shapes everything they do and everything they see. But they don’t see it.
“Here’s the contention of this book: if you’re a Westerner—whether you’ve stepped foot inside a church or not, whether you’ve clapped eyes on a Bible or not, whether you consider yourself an atheist, pagan or Jedi Knight-you are a goldfish, and Christianity is the water in which you swim.
“Or, to say the same thing in a slightly different way, Christianity is the air we breathe. It is our atmosphere. It’s our environment, both unseen and all—pervasive. And in the tradition of a spiritual teacher (truth be told, I’m an Anglican clergyman, so the shoe fits), I’m going to ask you to focus on your breathing. This is a technique common to so many of the great religious traditions.

  • Glen Scrivener, The Air We Breathe

Last we, we finished the mini-series on Matt Chandler’s To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain.  This week starts the next mini-series, and we are starting it without a breather between them.  No need to worry though.  This one is all about breathing, or at least the air that we breathe.

I am going to introduce it a little differently.  Rev. Scrivener starts by looking at the different types of people that might be reading his book.  He called one group the “dones.”  They tried Christianity and they are “done” with it.  He called one group the “wons,” those who are true Christians.  They met the risen Lord and follow Christian principles.  And he calls the last group the “nones,” those that are not exposed to Christian teaching.  Rev. Scrivener says that Christianity affects all three groups in Western culture.

When someone initiates a protest about inequality, slavery, injustice.  Those things affect all three groups, but there was a time when those things were so common, no one noticed.  A slave that was treated unjustly because he was considered less than human could cry for justice, but no one would listen.  Why?  He was a slave.  He had no rights to even speak.  And as a slave, he was property and his owner could do anything to him and do it “justly.”

After the introduction of his book, Rev. Scrivener’s first real chapter is on the night before Christmas.  He is not talking about any Christmas Eve specifically, but in the last century BC and into the first century AD, what was the norm?  He mentions Caligula (12-41AD) who had lions as pets and it became too expensive to feed them a proper diet.  He decided to feed prisoners to the lions.  It fed his pet lions, and it lowered the cost of maintaining the prisons.  The fact that many of the prisoners had not yet gone to trial meant nothing to him.  If you are a prisoner, even one falsely accused, you were not quite human.  Thus, his decision was, in his mind and he was the emperor, both fair and just.  Of course, this is the practice that led to one type of Christian persecution, those atheists who did not worship the Roman gods.

But Rev. Scrivener does not start this first chapter with Scripture.  Therefore, I am going a different direction.  I know.  For some of you regular readers, you are saying, “Wow!  What a surprise!” sarcastically.

The first Scripture speaks of God making humans in His own image.  I think that means that we are created with a soul that will not die, for better or worse.  We have sentience, beyond feeling pain and recognizing a value system that avoids pain.  We are aware of good and evil.  We are aware of various values beyond what our basic senses tell us.  But in the second Scripture, we see that Adam and Eve are not aware of sin.  They are innocent.  People focus on nudity, but they had no concept of stealing, cursing, telling falsehood, or killing each other.  All that became part of our awareness when they ate the forbidden fruit.  The nudity was simply the obvious outward display of that innocence and then the guilt once they ate the fruit.

But still, Adam and Eve may have blamed each other and the serpent, but they, overall, were not bad people.  When they focused on being good, which they innately understood, they did a passable job.  The concept of giving offerings to God was probably taught to them by God.  There is much left out between the end of Genesis 3 and the beginning of Genesis 4.  Adam and Eve had to learn a lot.

Then we come to Cain killing Abel.  Before he did so, God saw his resentment and cautioned him that if evil got a grip on him, Cain would be consumed.  Then Cain kills Abel.  He denies the crime.  And then when he and his family are banished…  Note: He married his sister.  Her birth is simply not recorded.  Adam and Eve probably had more sons and daughters not recorded, but the family line to Noah is recorded.

Cain objects to the punishment.  He thinks that he will be hunted down by his brothers and killed.  God put the mark of Cain upon him, not to mark him as a murderer, but a mark of protection so that he in turn will not be murdered.  It is not until Exodus 21:24 when we see an eye for an eye type justice.

Why did Cain react in the manner in which he did?  The evil had consumed him, just as God had warned.  If Cain had not murdered Abel, but George (sorry to all people named George) killed Abel, Cain, being consumed by the evil, would want revenge.

What makes the Exodus 21:24 just is that the punishment fits the crime.  You are ridding yourself of someone who has proven to let evil impulses rule.

But that gets ahead of the last two Scriptures.  Pharoah sees the Israelites.  He fears their mighty numbers, although they are predominantly herdsmen.  And he enslaves them.  Like Caligula above, he is the ruler.  He makes his own rules.  He gets cities built to show his own glory and he subjugates a possible enemy.  Then when Moses returns, Pharoah hardens his heart.  As time goes on, God wants all ten plagues to occur, so as Pharoah starts to weaken, God hardens Pharoah’s heart.

The key is that over the millennia since Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit, we have all been tainted by the evil that first consumed Cain.  What was once innocence is far from innocent.

Thus, we get to the first century and Jesus reminds us of that small voice inside each of us, that voice that says that we must not infringe on our neighbor’s happiness to have happiness ourselves.

What once was the norm and to the victors, basically the strongest bully, goes the spoils.

But when Jesus preached things like He did in the Sermon on the Mount, it seemed brand new.  It seemed revolutionary.  And for the Western world and its culture, it has shaped our way of thinking with hardly any notice.  It is like the air that we breathe.

Lord, guide me.  Help me to realize this revolutionary teaching of Jesus is buried deep inside me.  Help me to be a better follower of Jesus so that His basic principles are second nature to me.  And help me realize that without Jesus in my heart, my efforts of living according to the teachings of Jesus are for nought.  In Thy Name I pray.  Amen

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

One Comment

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  1. Thanks for sharing this idea. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

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