Monday, February 1, 2010

Rewind - Genesis 3: Sin Entered the World . . .

Note: In reading over my blogs I've noticed a few chapters that got overlooked somehow here and there.  Genesis 3 is one of them. I think I'm going to make separate posts for each of these (I've only noticed one other so far).

Genesis 3 is about sin entering the world - the serpent deceives Eve and she eats, and then Adam eats, and the rest is history.  This is a loaded chapter. 

First of all, there's a tension between seeing and hearing - God gave a verbal command to Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree, but then Eve looks at the tree and sees that it appears good, so she goes with that.  We as humans, I think, are much more likely to believe our eyes than our ears.

Secondly, did you know that according to Jewish belief, Satan hasn't fallen yet at this point in the story?  They believe that Satan was specifically created to tempt man, so that he would have free will - the idea being that without options, you can't really be said to be making choices.  Ever since I heard about that, I've wondered if it is true.  The Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us who Satan is or what he was before he became God’s enemy; tradition tells us that he is Lucifer, the name Isaiah gives to the king of Babylon, but the text itself doesn’t say that, although it may well be true.  All we know is that his name means “adversary.”

Thirdly, Adam and Eve realize they're naked.  Donald Miller has an amazing chapter in his book Searching for God Knows What about the significance of this idea.  To sum it up, nakedness represents complete vulnerability.  We equate it with shame today, but it wasn't that way in the garden because Adam and Eve knew they were completely, wholly accepted by God and by each other; they had nothing to hide.  We lost that at the fall, that security.  Now we are always trying to cover up what we perceive to be our inadequacy; we're embarrassed of ourselves.  You know this is all a double entendre, right?  Nakedness is more than physical openness, it's every kind of openness.  We try to hide who we are from each other because we fear rejection.  In the same way, Adam and Eve tried to hide their nakedness from God in a symbol of their disobedience - they no longer could be completely open with Him; having broken His law, they had something to fear, and something to hide.  God is not at all put off by that.  And the beautiful thing is, He doesn't leave them like they are, even though they're being punished.  He clothes them with animal skins.  This is the first time in history that something has died, so it probably really freaked Adam and Eve out.  Something innocent died to provide covering for them, when God had said that when they ate of the forbidden tree, they would be the ones who died.  So they’re looking at the dead animals on their bodies and thinking, “Is this what was going to happen to me?

What Adam and Eve did in the garden is what we all do.  I don’t believe that in a mystical, vaguely-Eastern way all humans were pre-incarnately present inside Adam’s body and every one of us chose to eat the fruit.  But I do believe that in each one of our lives, we take a shortcut – what we see over what we have heard, maybe – and we decide that our judgment is better than God’s.  Then when we screw up and we know it, we feel ashamed, inadequate, guilty.  We want to hide.  We try to cover up our wrongdoing by various means – good deeds, religiosity, denial, indifference, materialism, you name it – those things are leaves.  They’re a sloppy makeshift loincloth that is going to blow away at the slightest gust of wind, leaving us totally exposed.  But along comes God who sees who we are and what we’ve done, and He makes provision for us.  He doesn’t let us off the hook – no, when sin happens, something or someone has to die – and that someone was Jesus.  His death should have been our death, and would have been our death.  But now His body and blood give us covering for our shame and make us able to stand again.  It’s something we didn’t have to do and certainly didn’t deserve to have done.  In theological terms, that is called grace.

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