Posted by: 15shekels | February 16, 2010

“You will be like God”

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” -Romans 5:18-19

A long, long time ago, one woman and one man’s obedience and faith in God were tested:

“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?’ 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 surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 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.” -Genesis 3:1-6

The story of the fall of man is often thought quaint and archaic, a fairy tale made up to account for the evil in the world. It certainly does sound absurd upon first reading. God created man and gave him paradise—but in that paradise He placed a tree that He forbade him to touch, knowing he would fail the test. It seems horribly cruel, something a parent would not intentionally do to a child. Why would a loving father put the tree there in the first place? And even if Adam and Eve failed, why would every single person to come after them be punished as well, for the sin of “one man”? Isn’t that unfair?

Yes, it would be unfair, if we were not making the same decision Adam and Eve made, again and again, as often as we breathe. But first, to address the cruelty objection—of course God could have chosen to remove any temptation or alternative to obedience from the garden. But for some reason, He thought it was worth it to give his beloved children a choice. They could choose to obey Him and trust Him, or they could choose to try to replace Him and be their own gods, their own bosses. What do you think the serpent’s most tempting phrase was? “You will be like God.” The root of sin isn’t breaking the rules; it’s seeking to put yourself in the place of God. And so, many years later, we might not be breaking God’s explicit rules (although we most likely are), but whenever we seek to glorify ourselves or put ourselves before God or before others, we are rebelling against God and failing the test of the garden.

If God hadn’t put the tree in the garden, Adam and Eve would not have had free will. They would not have had the choice to choose “not God.” And just like I wouldn’t want a husband who was programmed to love me and had no alternative, it seems like God wanted Adam and Eve to have the choice. He could have had the obedience of robots. Instead, He chose the freely given love of children, even though He knew how bad we were at it.

And so, in the immediate aftermath of their great rebellion, God approached Adam and Eve and treated them like adults. He asked them questions, until they began to comprehend what they had done. He explained the consequences of their actions, that they had broken their relationships with Him and with each other, and then He cast them out of the garden. But His mercy was already present—unreasonable, irrational grace. First, he made them clothes to cover their nakedness, of which they were ashamed only because of their new knowledge. Secondly, in his speech to the serpent, God hinted at the plan He had already crafted to one day provide a way back into the garden:

“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.” -Genesis 3:15

Who is this mysterious offspring of Adam and Eve who will crush the serpent, Satan, the embodiment of evil and death? And what does it mean that the serpent will strike him in the process? The answer is revealed many centuries later, when another man is tested just as Adam and Eve were:

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” -Matthew 4:1-11

Where Adam failed, Jesus passed. Everything that Adam and Eve desired in the apple, Satan offered to Jesus on a larger scale—food, glory and power. And Jesus declared his trust in God and total obedience to Him. Therefore Jesus, as the only one who is worthy and perfect, is the only one who can lead us home. Jesus, who was in fact a descendent of Adam and Eve, does crush the serpent’s head. But instead of doing it through violent conquering (although that day will come), he did it by dying as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. He crushed the serpent’s head, but the serpent struck his heel, and he died brutally on the cross. There was no way to crush the serpent without getting struck, just as there was no way back into the garden except by that flaming sword. Jesus passed the test, and endured the sword, and so, as Paul says in Romans, “just as through the disobedience of [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of [Jesus] the many will be made righteous.”

And so it is our turn. Just like Adam, and just like Jesus, we have a choice. The truth is, we cannot avoid sin, because the poison of selfishness has spread through our hearts and bodies. We cannot succeed where Adam failed. Our default state, then, is with Adam and Eve, standing cold and prideful outside the beautiful garden, looking back wistfully at what we have ourselves lost. But the good news is that Jesus can lead us back in, falling on the sword so that we can pass through safely. It is his offer to every stubborn son of Adam. Yet our wills are free. We are free to remain outside, shivering in the cold, if that is our choice.

Or we can rejoice at our good fortune, and chase our savior back into paradise.

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