(A five minute read – part of a year-long series on the Ministry of Reconciliation
Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/: The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree.
Original Sin has been debated, discussed, dissected and derided as much as any Biblical concept. I find less difficulty wrestling with the problem than with the solution.
The Bible reports that original sin was the catalyst for God’s plan of redemption, for people and the world. This plan began its culmination in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It continues through the work of the Church in the present age and Christ’s eventual return to judge creation.
You can lose yourself down endless hermeneutical rabbit holes here. Or have some pretty spicy arguments around the holiday dinner table (Been there. Done both. Don’t recommend either.)
But what if creation didn’t get off track with Adam and Eve’s sin? What if the trouble came because they didn’t repent and reconcile themselves to God?
Hold it. Relax. Call off the Twitter mob. Put away the paintball guns and re-pack the label of heretic so many are quickly adorned with nowadays. This is merely a thought experiment. Rest assured that I believe sin was the problem, is the problem and will continue to be the problem until Christ’s return. But it’s not unsolvable.
Jesus’ work on earth is the answer to sin that Adam and Eve couldn’t quite grasp.
We all know the story, but to recap: Adam and Eve are created to be in relationship with God, tending the garden of Eden. The devil cons Eve into thinking God’s holding out on her and she’s missing something. She agrees to munch on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam follows suit. In creation’s first face-palm moment, the two of them have their eyes opened to the reality that they’re in Really Big Trouble.
An ‘oh crap’ situation of cosmic proportions has developed. Decision time then. Come clean? Or live in shame?
You know the rest. They selected Door Number Two and decided to become tailors. They sewed garments of fig leaves to cover their nakedness. God dramatically asks a Very Large Rhetorical Question, as He often does: ‘Hey Adam – where you at?’
There is a second decision point and Adam does a bit better this time. He comes half-clean, admitting that he was afraid due to being caught out of his knickers. But he didn’t go far enough to admit outright all they had done.
So, God bears down: ‘Who told you you were naked? Did you eat the fruit?’
Is it Really All Downhill From Here?
Decision time again. The third time pays for all. Adam blows it completely. He blames his wife (husbands take note: this never works). Eve blames the devil (wives take note: not a good idea; better to blame the husband). I imagine Satan standing there with a ‘Who, Me?’ look on his face thinking ‘Curses, foiled again.’ Indeed then, curses are the order of the day.1
But wait a minute.
What if Adam and Eve had made a full confession at that first question and thrown themselves on the mercy of the court? What if they had repented?
There’s nothing in the Genesis story hinting that God would have forgiven them and let everything rewind and start over. But it’s not beyond my imagination to think that He would not have or could not have. Funny things happen in a universe that allows for free will.
We know how things turned out for the ancients. But thanks to Jesus Christ, they can turn out differently for you and me.
Much of Scripture is interpreted to shove sin down our throat: sin is the world’s only problem! Well yes, but let’s not condemn ourselves for sinning just yet. Because there’s a way out. There is forgiveness for sin, because there is grace – again, thanks to Christ. Even if you aren’t a Christian and want to relabel sin as ‘crappy behavior’ it’s all about the same. We screw up and need to make amends to one another and create reconciliation.
It’s just that we need to do that on the spiritual level first, if we are to get out from under the eternal burden of it. But God understands. The Psalmist reminds us that ‘He knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust.’ 2
We Are In Trouble, And Yet…
As theologian Karl Barth pointed out, this grace comes from God assuming we are ‘in distress and that God’s intention is to…grant (us) assistance in (our) extremity.’ 3
Isn’t that remarkable? What a relief. God knows we are in trouble. We are constantly and always in trouble. Even Christians who have turned away from a sin lifestyle suffer from thoughts, actions and lack of actions that miss the mark. We are always in some sort of trouble, even if we don’t talk about it.
As I wrote elsewhere, we must learn to breathe underwater because life is always over our heads. The smart Christian admits this, and asks always and constantly for Help.
So, sin dogs me, as it dogs us all, believer and unbeliever alike. That’s unavoidable with us being born into a spiritual war zone and all. But I’ll argue that my ultimate problem is not sin. It’s hard-heartedness, leading to a lack of repentance.
My solution must be a quick about-face to acknowledge the mistake and offer a meaningful apology. Otherwise I’ll fall into a pattern of sin, which will only increase. The better alternative is to step into a pattern of repentance, which will only increase.
That’s the key. Oswald Chambers said ‘the foundation of Christianity is repentance.’ 4 He’s right, because sin doesn’t make us bad. It makes us dead.
(based on an idea from Melanie Searle)
1. See Genesis 3:1-19
2. Psalm 103:14
3. Karl Barth, Unspoken Sermons, First Series
4. My Utmost For His Highest Devotional Journal, Oswald Chambers, (© 1992 Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd. Used with permission). He was commenting on 2 Corinthians 7:10, which says: ‘Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but the sorrow of the world produces death.’
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