We’d really like life to be easy, wouldn’t we? I know I would. We’d like to be married to someone with telepathy who only lived to please us. We’d like to parent children who resembled cuddly robots, executing our every command and over-achieving our goals for them. We’d like to find fulfillment in excellent, creative work, accomplished in about two hours a day with a minimum of sweat and no actual frustration. We’d like to be wise without being old, to grow strong without working out and to acquire several languages in our sleep. We’d like to be loved in every relationship, fully supported and understood, without conflict or confusion or struggle. Because we live in a broken world, it just doesn’t work that way. But we know God better as a result.
The Bible story of Noah and the Ark can be found in Genesis 6-9. You will also find it illustrated in pastel colors on nursery walls everywhere. The dove has come to symbolize peace, in large part, because of this narrative. And the rainbow has been used to represent the beauty and variety of Creation in all its forms. We’d like the story to be that easy, but it just doesn’t work that way. The story of Noah is a horrific story of evil, terror and destruction. The word “peace” isn’t found in these chapters, and the rainbow is a weapon of war. The story of Noah isn’t God’s offer to live in peace with mankind. It’s God’s covenant to live at enmity with mankind.
Peace for God would mean flooding the world constantly, purging every bit of sin, suffering and rebellion from the planet. But in Genesis 8:21 He agrees not to act on His righteous impulse. God agrees that He will suffer the continued existence of evil and sin in order to save a few – hence the bow which is aimed at Heaven. The same principle is illustrated again in the Genesis 18 story of Sodom when God agrees not to destroy the city for the sake of only a few. This idea comes to full fruition in Jesus Christ. God is willing to suffer the sins of the many for the sake of the One. He is willing to live in discord with the entirety of Creation for the sake of His Son and those who find salvation in Him. What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory? (Rom. 9:22-23)
Every time we are subject to frustration and conflict, we know God a little better. Every time we forebear the difficulty of living in a broken world, we reflect His patience. Every time we cultivate the ground despite its thorns, fight for integrity in a world of deceit, love a difficult spouse, child, friend or enemy who doesn’t really appreciate us, we look a little more like God Himself. We look a little more like the Father who agreed to live in long-suffering enmity with the world in order to save some, like the Son whose work was to bear the sins of His brothers, constructing their lifeboat from His own body, and like the Holy Spirit, that peaceful dove who nests with violent, broken people that they might know His power for living. Now let’s go show that kind of love to this damaged world. It won’t be easy.