However one interprets the Creation narratives of Genesis, the account of God seeking Adam in the garden is a masterpiece. God’s simple question drives home the poignant sense of loss: “Where are you?” The natural communion among God, Adam, and Eve has been torn asunder.
Adam and Eve hide because of their shame, forgetting (as we all do) that God knows the answer to his own rhetorical question. God explains the consequences of their disobedience, but also alludes to the deeper redemption that will come with Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. As a young person once said to author Phyllis Tickle about the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, “It’s too beautiful not to be true.”
|First reading and psalm: 1 Sam. 8:4-11
(12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15) • Ps. 138
The narrative of the Fall is, in any case, one of the primary themes of Christian theism. Something is deeply broken in this world, and the doctrine of the Fall helps explain the source of the damage. An alternative is to think that evil and suffering somehow represent a dark side of God, as if even the Creator must encompass yin and yang. Such an assumption makes it easy for an atheist to claim that fatal diseases among children, or animals eating one another, mock any notion of God being both all-powerful and righteous. Not that an atheist offers any better resolution: “Life is brutal and then you die” is unlikely to inspire compassion, much less any effort to resist evil.
Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth builds on the theme of the Fall but adds the primary theme of Redemption: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
Through the cross, we are restored to full communion with God. Through the cross, we begin to become what God intended for us to be from the beginning. Through the cross, we catch a glimpse of what awaits us in eternity.
Some of us know deep brokenness not only in the world around us but in relationships that are constrained by misunderstandings, false assumptions, or even malice. When we struggle to honor parents who failed us, or to keep faith with sons or daughters who have wandered into rebellion, we can draw strength from Paul’s imagery. If someone you love causes you grief, focus on the big picture: someday, by God’s grace, you will relate to one another without the weighty burdens of the Fall. In eternity, your redeemed and unhindered souls will know full communion again. You will stand on level ground, beneath the redeeming cross of Christ, and even the suffering you feel now will make sense.
Look It Up
Read Romans 8:18-25.
Think About It
How do your beliefs about eternity influence the choices you make now?