Tag Archives: the Fall

No Options

Grace 101

According to Baskin-Robbins’ website, the company has created over 1000 flavors of ice cream.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the company, it generally features 31 flavors at a time.  People, especially children, are intrigued by the variety and sometimes stymied.  They just can’t seem to choose.  They walk back and forth looking, reading the descriptions, thinking about what they might like, and then someone with them or behind them says, “Just choose already!”  That might explain the fact that the most popular flavor sold by Baskin-Robbins is (drumroll please) . . . vanilla.  That’s right!

Sometimes in our country and our culture, we simply have too many options.  We move more slowly because we have so much to decide and much of the “decision-making power” of our lives is spent choosing between options that really are not that much different.  An argument could be made that our affluence actually hinders our progress at a certain point.

But what if you didn’t have any options?  In many countries around the world, no one asks what will be for supper.  They are simply grateful to have rice or bread or potatoes again.  No one wonders what to wear because they only have one set of clothes.  The lack of options almost defines poverty in the minds and hearts of Americans.

Adam and Eve found themselves without options in dealing with the most important part of their lives.  How were they to restore a relationship with God?  How could they find their way back to Paradise?  There was no option.  They were stuck where they were, in the life they had chosen.  The way back was closed.  They were not only spiritually poor, they were spiritually hopeless.

Of course they had other problems also.  Creation itself had changed.  The communion they had with God allowed them to walk among the creatures of the world in peace and harmony.  Nature was tied to humanity, made for humanity, and it fell with humanity.  The ground no longer brought forth crops joyfully.  The animals no longer enjoyed fellowship with humans.  Now there would be work and fighting and death.  And pain.  There would be pain.

But there were no options.  Adam and Eve and their children had nowhere else to go.  Eventually, they turned their backs on Eden and began a new life.

Truly, when people seem to have no options, they become very creative.  In years past I remember many meals of macaroni and cheese from the box.  The box was enough to feed the two of us and cost only 15 cents.  When it got monotonous, we chopped up wieners to add to it or, if we had a little, some sliced ham (my wife drew the line at Spam, but I liked it).  God made us amazingly creative.  We will pretend to have options, even if it appears we have none.

And two paths began to develop.  Now that the hearts of God and man were separate, their ideas of how to handle this new life became very different.  God’s path and man’s path.  After the Fall and before the Cross.

 

Grace 101 is a simple attempt to explain what has happened to us and what God has done for us.  So much of what we have learned has been confused by sectarian doctrines and theological jargon.  It is sometimes difficult to see the message the Lord wants us to understand as we read the Bible or worship together.  The series of posts will be found in the category called Grace 101 and begins here.  Enjoy!

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An Incongruent Life

Grace 101

 

And if when I died fully
I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
I am to-day,
 
Yet is it that, though whiling
The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
I live not now.

– Thomas Hardy, Dead Man Walking

 

Although it is a popular phrase today, used by some even to mean people about to be fired or let go from their job, “dead men walking” seems gruesome to me.  But it is a particularly accurate description of the existence Adam and Eve had after the Fall.  In fact, it is a description of anyone’s life apart from Christ.

Obviously we won’t get far trying to convince those without Jesus that they are dead.  But they already know that something is off, something is not the way it should be.  The life/existence of the lost person is incongruent.

Congruency is agreement or harmony.  It is a description of things working together to perform or be identified as a unified whole.  But the lost person, apart from life in Christ, is not whole.  How much of our art and music has come from the deep longing of the soul?  How much sin has come from the search for fulfillment?  How many good works have been done in the search to bring wholeness to human life?

But, apart from life in Christ, we are the walking dead.  Our first parents were unable to pass on to us the life they shared with God in the Garden.  That communion that fulfilled their lives, that brought them into harmony with God and each other, was lost.  The grief they felt has reverberated throughout humanity to this day.

And we use hard words to describe those who remain apart from Jesus.  They are lost; they walk in darkness; they are under condemnation and shame; they are in sin and in Adam; they are doomed to hell.  Words of pain and struggle and grief.

This is the death that God warned them about.  It was their choice, but this death was the consequence of their sin.  It was more than separation from God.  It was separation from life.  And there was no going back.

No matter how hard or what they tried, they could never regain that life.  It could never again be theirs.  Good works, striving, even religion couldn’t bring it back.  It was gone forever.

And the only answer was new life from outside themselves.  Their only hope was in something that wasn’t theirs.

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Because He Loved Them

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton   No Man is an Island
 
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”  Sherrilyn Kenyon, Unleash the Night

 

Many of us were brought up with the idea that God controls all things.  We talk about His plan and His sovereignty and His will and we just know that He gets everything He wants.  So when God says that He wants all people to be saved, to come to knowledge of the joy and peace found in Jesus, He must get what He wants.  Right?

But when we open our eyes to the real world, it is plain to see that God doesn’t always get what He wants.  He doesn’t want us to sin, but we do.  He wants us to love one another, and that is rare.  He wanted Israel to follow the Law and to stay close to Him, but they didn’t.  This is the Almighty God!  Why doesn’t He get what He wants?

Because of love.

Listen to God’s own description of love:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Love “does not seek its own.”  That means it does not demand its own way.  Love allows the other person to be a real person.  Love recognizes that the other person is a separate identity and love values that identity.  Love does not demand others to simply be reflections or toys.  Love lets others be who they are.

And God loves us.  He loves all people.

So God doesn’t force anyone.  From the very beginning, God set Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where all their needs would be provided forever.  They walked with Him and lived in a wonderful relationship with Him.  But they were free.  They were intelligent and able to make moral choices.  He allowed them to grow and create and live.

And, when the time came, they chose.  They chose something God did not want.  He knew it would happen, but we never say that He wanted it.  We like to say that they turned their backs on Him, but the truth is that they simply chose to do something He warned them against.

They did it their way.

Because they were free.

Because He loved them.

He let them go because they wanted to go.  He warned them.  He grieved when they did it.  But He knew they would.  Because they were free.

And they lost so much.  He knew they would and He told them they would.  But He didn’t stop them.  He already had a plan in place.  Because He loved them.

God made every person to live in relationship with Him because He loved each one.  Yet, because of that love, He let each one go his or her own way.  They would suffer apart from Him because He never made them to be alone.  He would call to them, long for them, and always be ready to welcome them; but they would have to choose Him.

So He set in motion an amazing plan.

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