Story - Crisis
Passage: Genesis 3:1–3:24, Romans 3:9–3:23
Growing up we learned that stories, fairy tales, begin the same way. Once upon a time. Then we get the setting. And they always end the same way, don’t they. And they lived happily ever after. But in between those two common points, a lot of stuff happens.
Last week we talked about how this big epic story of the Bible has a setting not too uncommon from most fairy tales. Once upon a time God created heaven and earth. God created plants and animals and sea creatures. And God created humanity. God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. God created Eve to be a suitable partner for Adam. God gave Adam and Eve to live in the garden, to care for it, and to life in harmony with the rest of creation.
God creates us in love, God creates us for love, and God gives us everything we need to thrive. That’s the setting. That’s the starting point for this epic love story God writes to us in the Bible.
And yet, for that story to be an epic, it needs some drama. It needs some movement. Something needs to happen. Unfortunately the story moves.
This morning we are going to talk about what happened. It’s funny though, in some respects this is the easiest point to make theologically. Writing nearly a century ago, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr declared that the only Christian doctrine that has universal assent is the doctrine of original sin. When we read Genesis 2, when we read about life immediately following creation, when we think about the harmony of Eden, we know that between then and now something has gone wrong. When we think about our lives, we know that something is fundamentally wrong. We turn on the news and we hear about mass shootings. We see our kids being bullied, we see what social media is doing to our students. We constantly hear words of hate, words that belittle, words that divide. We watch our loved ones die. We experience grief, sorrow, hurt, pain. We experience disordered relationships, disordered desire, we experience disorder. And we know, deep down, that something is wrong.
How did we get here? How did things come to be this way? That is what we are here to talk about this morning.
Genesis 3: 1-24
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
In Genesis 2, God created Adam and Eve and put them in the garden of Eden to keep it. And God told them they could eat any fruit they wanted, God gives them a giant salad bar, but says there is one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, from which they could not eat.
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The serpent is trying to re-author Eve’s story. We said that life was the competiton of two stories and we see here, early in the first dramatic movement, this dynamic at play. The serpent gives Eve the ultimate temptation. That if you eat of this fruit, you will be like God yourself. And in doing so, the serpent is telling Eve a different story about God and about herself. The serpent is telling Eve that God isn’t looking out for her, isn’t caring for her, but is selfishly guarding power for God’s own self. The serpent is saying that if God really loved Eve, God would let Eve eat from this tree and would let Eve be like God. The serpent is saying that God is a fear mongerer who is using the threat of death in order to protect God’s part of the sandbox. God isn’t loving, the serpent says, God isn’t caring, God hasn’t given you everything you need to thrive. God is selfish, God is only looking out for himself, if God really loved you, he’d let you have this fruit.
This is a narrative we are still told. This is a story we are still told. And what happens? What causes all this hurt and hate and disorder? We buy into it.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
There is so much imagery and allegory going on in this story and its so deep and beautiful. Prior to eating from that tree, Adam and Eve relied on God to know what was good and what was evil. They had no concept of good and evil; they simply did the will of God in every instance. Somehow in eating the fruit of the tree, in having their eyes opened and being able to know what is good and evil themselves, they begin to want to order their own lives. They think that the way God has designed for them to live is not right, is inadequate. They see that they are naked and they instead want to be clothed.
We too want to order our own lives. We want to decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil. What is right and what is wrong. We buy into a self-involved, self-centered narrative where we know for ourselves what is best, we know for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. And what happens next is that we know for everyone else what is right and what is wrong. You see our knowledge of good and evil becomes universal, at least within the confines of our own piece of the sandbox that we confuse to be the entirety of the universe. And when I know what is right for you and what is wrong for you and you know what is right for you and what is wrong for you, eventually we will be at odds with one another. And our relationships become distorted.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Here we see the climax of all the conflicts and movements we have covered thus far. Here we see just how disordered our relationships can become. Adam and Eve hear God coming and they are afraid. They have bought into the narrative that God isn’t a God of love, God isn’t looking our for them, God is out to get them. So they hide. Last week we talked about God creating us and how God created us out of an overflow of divine love. God tells us a story of our creation in order for us to know that we are loved and we are not alone. And here we see immediately Adam and Eve have discarded that narrative for a narrative that says our relationship to God should be based on fear.
God questions them, where are you. Adam slips up and says he knew he was naked. God asks the follow up, um…how did you know this? And then begins the greatest, most real back and forth in all of Scripture. God catches Adam. So what does Adam do? Admit that he was wrong, admit that he’s messed up, and apologize? NOPE! He says, “EVE MADE ME DO IT!” Actually it’s even better than that. He says, “This woman, who you put here, she made me do it.” So Adam first blames Eve and then he blames God. Typical guy, amiright ladies? But then what does Eve do? The serpent deceived me! She passes the blame on, too. The fundamental relationship of Genesis 2 are God’s relationship with Adam and Adam’s relationship with Eve. And both of them have come crashing down in a blaze of fear and blame.
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
There are consequences for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. There are consequences for their sin. But I want us to see the grace in this passage. God had said that on the day they ate of the tree they would surely die. And yet God does not kill them for their disobedience. God gives them time. Their lives will be harder, they will struggle. They will be subjected to pain. But they will live. And that time is a gift, that time is grace.
And there's a moment in this story that is perhaps among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. God created Adam and Eve, God placed them in a garden and gave them everything they need to thrive. God loved Adam and Eve beyond any love we can comprehend. And they betrayed God. Imagine the hurt God felt. Imagine the pain. These creatures that you have given everything for have turned against you. And their fig leaf clothes were the sign of that betrayal. And yet what does God do? He makes them clothes. God still loves them so much that He will make them clothes, despite the hurt, despite the pain, despite the fact that its now how God created them to live, God makes them clothes because its how they want to live. I find that deeply, deeply moving.
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
And so the final consequence is that we are subjected to death. To sorrow. To grief. That is our lot in life as we decide to live on our own, apart from the God who sustains us. Now lest we think this is just a story about Adam and Eve, lest we think that this is just an ancient myth that we modern people have moved beyond, Paul makes it very clear for us in Romans that this sickness has spread to all.
Paul spends the first chapter of Romans talking about the Gentiles who didn’t have the Law, but had wisdom. They had logic. They were enlightened. And yet they still fell into unrighteousness. Lest Israel boast, Paul makes clear in chapter 2 that the nation that had the Law broke it. So no one is immune.
Romans 3: 9-23
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Where does this leave us? What does this mean for us? Why is this element necessary in the story that God tells us?
This world is not how it is supposed to be. This world is not how its meant to be. I find comfort in this. I find comfort in times of being hurt, in times of grief, in times of pain knowing that this is not how it was supposed to be. I find comfort in being able to say this is awful, things must chance, things are supposed to change! When you are hurt, when you are back stabbed, when you put your trust in someone and they don’t come through, know that these are not how our relationships are supposed to function. When you’re cheated, when you’re lied to, when you’re let down know that God wants better for us. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this, we weren’t supposed to behave this way. Before things can get any better we have to admit that things could be better! We had to admit there’s a problem. And we have to admit that we are a part of that problem. We need help. We need healing. We need a savior.
Our story is one of a people created in love, created for love, who have failed to live up to the calling of our creation. But our salvation will not come from the perfect leader or the perfect form of government or from the perfect collection of self-help books. Our salvation will not come from simply wanting to live our best lives yet. Our crisis is one of our own making but the solution will not be of our own making. We know this because us knowing what’s best for ourself was precisely the problem. The story of our crisis has one solution: our return to God. Giving up on knowing what is best for ourselves, giving up on knowing what is right and wrong ourselves, giving up on knowing what is good and what is evil ourselves, and simply following God.
Our story was meant to be a people created out of love by a loving God to love each other and live in harmony with God and each other following our God in everything. We have fallen for a different story. Will you let God tell you that the way things are are not how they were meant to be? Will you believe that we are in crisis? And will you yearn for redemption, reconciliation, and healing so that we can all live and be as we were created to be?