“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain
God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness . . . water from water . . . day from night (Gen. 1:4, 6, 14).
Genesis 1:1 tells us that in the beginning, whenever and wherever that was, “God created.” The fact that God created was not an accident. Our being here was not a the result of molecules coming together and then exploding apart in a loud bang to form the universe, wherein God looked up and said, “Hmm, what’s going on down there?” The creation of the universe was an intentional work of God, not a series of fortuitous events that ultimately led to the diverse world that we know today.
As part of His plan for creation, Genesis says God separated like items: light from light, waters from waters, woman from man. And all these works He called “good.” It is good for day and night to be separate, for there to be a sky and an ocean, animals and vegetation, a man and a woman (Ps. 104:19-30).
The rationale behind these separations was to fill the void and formless earth. God expanded His creation, filled in the gaps, left nothing without a place or a purpose. For example, God separated the woman from the man so that Adam would no longer be alone, but be filled and fulfilled, by his uniting with Eve. In the economy of God, separation brings fulfillment, completion, and unity. But with man it is a different story.
When man decides to separate items, he usually does so based on his own likes and dislikes, and the result is a reversal of the voids and gaps God filled in at the creation of the world. Our first separation with God occurred when man separated himself from obedience and ate the forbidden food. Then Adam moved on to separate himself from his wife. Before eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam called Eve “bone of my bones” (Gen. 2:23), but afterwards referred to her as “The woman you gave me made me eat” (Gen. 3:12). Eve went from being the object of his desire to the object of his accusations.
The key idea here is that God separated, but He did not segregate. Separation prepares items to be apart for a common good; segregation implies isolation from the main body. Since God made man in His own image, then man, like God, is creative. However, man’s creative abilities should imitate the creative processes of God. Our creations should fill the voids in our world, not create them. Anytime our separations lead to segregation, especially among people, we’ve missed the character of God.
Perhaps this is why Paul was so keen to use the analogy of the human body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). I’m sure the Corinthians were adept at segregating themselves into various groups, especially the “Haves” and the “Have Nots” (1 Cor. 11:17-22). But the purpose of the body of Christ is to fill the voids in the world due to the sin of Adam, not create a society of churchgoers who once again create their own set of voids.
This concept gives me pause whenever I want to categorize certain places or individuals. Knowing where they fit in God’s economy is important. Separating them based on my fears and prejudices is not. Do I want to separate like items so that specific needs may be met – like having age-related classrooms – or am I intimidated by differences I don’t understand and seek to separate myself from those things that make me uncomfortable?
I confess I’ve done both. But now that I understand God separated in order to fill and fulfill, I’m going to be much more cautious the next time I start to categorize people and situations, for I just might find myself separated from the purposes of God, and that would serve no purpose at all.