I am pretty sure we all know the story of Adam, Eve, the serpent and the fruit. Told in Genesis 3 immediately following the descriptions of creation and all that is good the Bible introduces the theme of what we know as ‘The Fall’. Interestingly there is very little description of the goodness of creation prior to this moment, as though God created this beautiful world and almost immediately upon the creation of humankind things started to unravel.
I was brought up to understand the events of The Fall as happening just as they are described in the account in Genesis 3:1-7. God had created Adam and Eve and given them the Garden of Eden to enjoy and nurture (Genesis 2:4-25). Adam and Eve were permitted to eat and enjoy the fruits from throughout the luscious garden but in the centre was a tree which they had been instructed by God not to touch or to eat fruit for risk of death. Enter the serpent who speaks to Eve and convinces her that she will not die, rather she will gain knowledge and become more god-like. It does not seem to take very much effort on the part of the serpent to convince Eve, who we are told shares the fruit with Adam. Adam and Eve do not die, rather their eyes are opened to new knowledge, they learn the fruit does not kill them, they also learn that they are naked feel some sense of shame about this and hide from God.
Adam then blames Eve for giving him the fruit, Eve blames the serpent for deceiving her and the serpent is cursed (Genesis 3:11-14).
I am no longer convinced that this is exactly how the events of the beginning of human history unfolded. However, I am convinced that the events of this story continue to take place in each of our lives, we have all been in the position of Adam and/or Eve and we all need to heed the lessons of this story.
It is fascinating that the introduction of the concept of sin is not some major significant kind of crime such as murder (that comes in the following chapter – Genesis 4), but the seemingly small, mild act of eating a fruit (I mean, I wish my children would actually eat fruit so what’s the big deal). The fruit in this story is described as good, pleasing to the eye and desirable. It’s not often I think of fruit in such a tempting way, however present me chocolate, clotted-cream fudge, a Belgium bun or a bowl of warm sticky toffee pudding and I will be hard pushed to say no, stop after one piece or refuse the offer of seconds or even thirds. Yes, I have a sweet tooth. We are not all tempted by the same things but we all know that there are things which we find tempting. Perhaps it will be fruit, or maybe something sweet, or perhaps a drink. Maybe it’s the thrill of gambling, lusting another individual, a quick sexual fix, pornography, alcohol, drugs, over exercising, a need to buy the latest fashion or trend instantly, owning the latest items no matter the price cost, watching things we know aren’t good for us, and so on and so forth. It never starts with something huge; it always begins with something small. We convince ourselves that it won’t do any harm, it one sense it won’t, for most of us the initial temptation that we succumb to does not kill us, it does not harm us, rather it thrills us, it gives us a short sharp pick-me-up – whether it’s chocolate, whiskey or sex.
When I am tired or my mood is low, I am most susceptible to those things which tempt me. I can convince myself that I have somehow earned a reward, that just a little taste, sniff or glimpse won’t do any harm. Those around me who offer the most comfort in such times are not the ones who suggest healthy options, such as a good night sleep, a good diet and some exercise. No, I avoid those people or ignore their comments and I choose to hear the voices that subtly encourage and convince me that one small mouthful, one little look, one night of letting my hair down won’t do any harm. And, in most cases they are right, but it is the start of a slippery slope, that ‘one little’ risks becoming a regular and unhealthy coping mechanism. Enjoying a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine are not wrong (they are not sinful) but our motivation for them can be. We look to comfort food or other coping mechanisms because they are easy, tempting and desirable for ourselves. Rather than addressing what might be going on in our lives that causes us to become dependent or addicted that which is unhealthy we allow ourselves to succumb to the temptations. At first they seem fine, enjoyable or fun even, but can lead down a slippery slope and begin to impact upon relationships and health. Most of the things which tempt us will not kill us immediately (a few might) but they will slowly cause us to die as we crave the fix of that which tempts us over our relationships with loved ones.
There is a temptation to blame to others, just as Adam did of Eve (Genesis 3:12), and Eve did of the serpent (Genesis 3:13). There is a temptation to elevate the problems and choices of others to make them worse than our own – surely a someone who succumbs to a drug addiction is worse that someone who turns to ice cream to satisfy their craving and fulfil a desire. It might sound funny, but isn’t this the point in Genesis 3? All it takes is the yielding to the temptation of a piece of fruit. What is your craving? What is it that is pleasing to your eye? What is it that you crave? What do you convince yourself won’t cause any harm or that you deserve?
God created us in the image of God; that is as beings made for relationship. However, relationships are not easy. Relationships are challenging. Rather than turning to others or to God it is sometimes easier to turn to something else, to bury our emotions or to seek a heightened thrill rather than address the reality we face. It rarely begins with something monumental but with something seemingly small and innocuous which the creeps in to the point it becomes something we depend upon. It becomes something we do in secret and try to hide or we overtly show it off, flaunting our coping mechanisms to cover our inner shame and guilt.
Rather than blaming Adam or Eve for ‘The Fall’ we are required to look at ourselves. We are required to examine the fruit which has tempted us and driven a wedge between ourselves and God and one another. There are consequences for the actions of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-19), and there are consequences for us. This is surely to be expected. God does not destroy Adam and Eve; God does not decide to start again or to wipe their memories. Rather, God acknowledges what has happened, provides them with clothes (Genesis 3:20-21), and removes them from the place which will offer further and more damaging temptation (Genesis 3:22-24). God continues to offer us the same. Adam and Eve hid from God because they realised they were naked (Genesis 3:8-10). We might choose to hide from God because we do not want to expose to God, to others or even ourselves, that of which we are ashamed. Yet God seeks us, and when God finds us and we show ourselves to God, God chooses to cover our shame. God does not want to destroy you or cause you to forget those poor choices and decisions that lead to breakdown in relationship. Rather God longs to bring healing and wholeness to those who choose, even with our fears, to respond to God’s call “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Our responsibility is to receive the grace and mercy that is freely given by God, to accept the consequences of our own actions, to dedicate ourselves to the hard work of relationships. Rather than seeking after the selfish desires of our own lusts and cravings, we are to be transformed as we seek to love God with our heart, mind, body and soul (Mark 12:28-31) and to love our neighbours as Christ has loved us (John 15:12-13).