Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sweater Weather!

Summer, 2017, is history.  As the cool weather arrives, we reach for our sweaters.  We need to cover ourselves more than we did during the summer because we prefer comfort to shivering!  It is fascinating to consider that the time that Adam and Eve spent in the Garden of Eden was much the same story.

We read in Genesis 2 that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed.  It was apparently an ideal climate, and beyond that, our ancestors had nothing to hide.  They enjoyed the earth that God had created for them to govern, and they enjoyed unhindered relationship.  It was summer, so to speak, in the Garden.

And then came the fall.  Goaded by the serpent, Eve took the forbidden fruit, ate, and shared it with Adam.  Then they discovered they were naked.  The shame of their nakedness—not a change of season—prompted them to sew fig leaves together to cover themselves.  Fall had come to the Garden.

When the LORD God came looking for them, they hid out of fear, and in the subsequent conversation, we see them desperately grasping for moral covering: When God confronted Adam about his eating the forbidden fruit, Adam promptly blamed Eve and God for giving Eve to him.  Predictably, Eve blamed the serpent.  Now they were living in fear, shame, and broken relationship; and there was no place to hide.

I have to think that fig leaves sewn together did not make for particularly comfortable, effective, or durable clothing.  And before He evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden, God kindly made them clothing out of animal skins.  The animal-lover in me cringes that animals had to die because Adam and Eve sinned.  While their new clothes undoubtedly made it easier and more comfortable for them to live and work in a newly fallen and hostile world, the real problem remained: Adam and Eve had no moral covering, no means to cover their sin and sinfulness.  Fear, shame, and broken relationship become the warp and woof of the Genesis narrative as we read about Cain murdering Abel, Lamech’s boasting, Jacob’s deceptions, and Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. 

Ancient history is filled with the saga of sin compounded by sinners trying to cover up, justify, or blame others, or to “make up” for their wrongdoing by becoming do-gooders.  And the struggle continues to this day.  How many times do we excuse our bad behavior by saying we were tired, stressed, or someone “made” us angry.  Or we choose an alternate route and decide to “make up” for our sin by being law keepers who obey but do not love.  The “sin clothes” we construct to deny, minimize, or mask our sin are no more comfortable, effective, or durable than the fig leaves used by Adam and Eve. 

So here we are.  Dead in our sins and trespasses, as the Apostle Paul would say.  Our own devices of excuses and/or self-righteousness are no better than fig leaves.  But thanks be to God!  Once again, the loving, merciful, God has provided.  This time, it was not the blood of animals that was shed in order to clothe mankind; rather, it was the blood of God’s own Son that was shed to cover our sin.  Fear and shame, as well as the Law that would condemn us have become obsolete, as the author of Hebrews reminds us.

What are we to do with this glorious truth?  We have two choices.  We can give in to our sin nature and take the fig leaf route to dealing with our sin; or we can accept Christ’s covering and no longer hide in our fear and shame. 

While it is, I hope, obvious that the second path is the wiser of the two, it may be less obvious that it is vital to walk it in the company of God’s people.  Try as we might to avoid it, our sin nature provokes us to hurt one another, and the more we work together, the more our sin is exposed.  That is a good thing!  It is as our sin is exposed that we have the opportunity to confess and repent and experience forgiveness, love, mercy and grace.  And those blessings are even greater than a sweater in October.