reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 4 : Sin didn’t separate us from God, AND death is a merciful gift (reexamining the Garden of Eden).

imageHere’s the suggestion where you may begin to consider whether I am a heretic. But read it through here and please believe that I want more than anything to know Christ fully and fully make Him known.

I would suggest that the way we have taught the Garden of Eden “Fall” may be part of the reason the church doesn’t function as Jesus intended.

May we be willing to reexamine the Garden of Eden text. Consider these two assertions based solely on my understanding of the Scripture in Genesis 3. These do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those who guest comment. In fact, their being asked to guest comment is so that a healthy and even rebuking dialogue can occur if they believe that I am bordering on half-crazy if not all the way heretical here. So, here are two assertions in an effort to reexamine the Garden of Eden account.

(1) Sin didn’t separate us from God.

Genesis 2. God told Adam not to eat one of the two trees in the middle of the Garden – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good AND Evil (emphasis mine). God didn’t want them to know evil, only His goodness. God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. God made Eve to be Adam’s “helper.” Adam’s response, “Wo(ah)-Man!!!” (my paraphrase)

Genesis 3. The serpent deceived Eve, playing on her desires, however those might be labeled or described. Eve chose to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent actually told Eve what would happen before she ate of it. “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 HCSB). Adam ate it, also. They didn’t die immediately. In fact, their eyes were opened to evil, first evidenced in their insecure attention upon themselves and their nakedness. Then they heard a sound.

“God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze” (Genesis 3:8 HCSB). They hid. He located them with his God-can-see-anything vision, pulled out his XJ Laser 5000 weapon with target scope, and annihilated them.

Sorry. I got carried away. That’s not what happened is it?

God asked a question. It was a strange question for a God who knows everything. Therefore, it must be a purposeful question, intended to highlight the gracious, loving, good, want-my-beloved-near-me heart of God.

“Where are you?”
(Genesis 3:9 HCSB)

They cried out from their hiding. Truth exposed and confronted them, expressed in grace, the same way Truth would show up thousands of years later (John 1:14).

Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent. God tells them of their consequence. It wasn’t separation from Him. It was toil and hardship and pain, the consequence of knowing good AND evil. Then, God does something quite peculiar yet beautifully merciful.

God became a tailor. He made clothes for a naked, insecure couple whom He had intended always to exist in naked, secure oneness together.

Then, God did what, in my opinion, many people have missed. He does not separate Adam and Eve from Himself. He separates them from the chance to eat of the Tree of Life, which would have allowed a life lived for self, knowing good AND evil, to live forever.

The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3:22-24 HCSB)

Sin didn’t separate us from God. God separated sinfulness from its chance to live forever.

Why does that matter when it comes to the function of the church?

Because news that begins with a God who banishes His beloved is very different than news that begins with a God who didn’t want His beloved to be plagued with evil forever.

That is “good news.”

Which leads to the second assertion.

(2) Death is a merciful gift.

The serpent was wrong on one account with Eve. He told her she would not die. She would. But it would be because of God’s mercy, not because of her sin. Please, please, please don’t discount this as semantics. It is not just another way to say the same old thing.

Death is not the consequence for sin. Death is the merciful gift given by God declaring the expiration of sin.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 
(John 1:29 HCSB)

The verb in the original language for “takes away” in the way that John used it in verse 29 indicates a removal of. Jesus didn’t just take it upon Himself. He took it away from, took it out of, did away with it.

It is the word picture of “propitiation,” the location where mercy absorbs sin, like the “Mercy Seat” on the top of the Ark of the Covenant.

The point is that death was not just a banishment consequence from God. Death was God’s merciful way not to allow a sinful existence to last forever. Death was a merciful gift.

Why does that matter when it comes to the function of the church?

Because news that the consequence of sin is my own eternal death is very different than news that the living God killed off sin with His own death so that we might have resurrection life with Him. My own eternal death or my own condemnation is certain, IF I don’t believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to not condemn the world but to save the world from (John 3:16-18). That is “good news.”

What if the Garden of Eden story, the Fall, is not a story about sin separating us from God, but rather the story of God separating sin from its chance to exist forever?

God initiated His rescue plan before there was even humanity to rescue (Ephesians 1), but inside the context of time, the Fall story is the launch of that rescue. God decided that Adam and Eve needed to be away from the Tree of Life. And He was willing to do this because He had already planned for another Tree of Life upon which sin would meet its death.

This matters with regard to the function of the church because it sets the stage for God’s “good news” for humanity, which He sends the church to proclaim and declare and embody.

May we be willing to reexamine the Garden of Eden as we have known it. May Jesus reFUNCTION His church to be compelled by the story of a God who did not want His beloved to know good AND evil, to know a sinful existence, forever.

That’s good news!!!

Definitely value your thoughts on this one. And value your affirmation AND rebuke. We grow together as we converse about Truth together, graciously and respectfully as well as truthfully and boldly.