Monday, February 27, 2017

Looking for Sin?

Whenever I read the story of the Fall in Genesis 2 & 3, there's a line that catches my attention and changes the way I read the rest of the story: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made." On the one hand, that gives the story a bit of a fanciful feel. As far as I can tell, none of the other animals spoke to Adam or Eve, but a talking snake makes me feel like I'm in a cartoon. But, on the other hand, the editor's introduction of the serpent as the craftiest wild animal that God had made helps me read its interaction with Eve with heightened attention to his techniques.

With that peculiar introduction in mind, we read that the serpent said to the woman, "Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?" Oooh! Listen to that treachery. That serpent knew perfectly well what God had said to Adam and Eve, but it asks the question to expose a crack in the wall. Did God tell you not to eat from any tree in the garden? "No," Eve replied, "God said we could eat of any tree except the one in the middle of the garden, which, if we even touch it, will kill us." Notice how the serpent gets the woman to name the temptation. He doesn't even give voice to it. That would be too obvious--too easy to spot and dismiss. Instead, the serpent begins by helping the woman see the boundaries and begin to question them.

The crafty serpent continues, "You will not die! God knows that if you eat of it you will be like God, knowing good and evil." And the trap is set. The serpent bids the woman farewell and slithers off into the high grass to watch the woman walk right into it. On her own, unable to let the distinction fade away, unable to let go of the serpent's words and the thoughts it awoke in her, Eve goes to the tree and examines the fruit. "It looks good to eat. I see no reason not to eat it other than the rule God made. It's a silly rule anyway. God just wants to keep us in the dark. God wants to control us. God shouldn't have made that rule. God is selfish to do it. God just wants to keep all of the good things to himself. I won't listen to that. I won't stand for it. I will stand up for what's right--for the gift of eye-opening for everyone. We were made in God's image. It isn't fair for God to hide the fullness of God's image from us. Give me that fruit. Let's see what it tastes like."

Sin rarely comes looking for us, but it always seems close at hand when we start looking for it. The story of humanity's fall is a beautifully crafted account of human nature. The serpent's role is so familiar to all of us--not because it is a talking snake but because temptation is always so small, so slight, so subtle. Temptation preys upon the weakness inside of us. It convinces us that we are immune to its effects--that we are master of our nature, when, in fact, we are enslaved by it. As we enter the season of Lent and journey into the purifying, trying wilderness, may we hold fast to the one who perfects our nature. May Jesus Christ give us the strength to journey through this life so that we might come to our perfection in him.

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