Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Curse That Wasn’t

  There were two trees in the garden; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. The presence of the tree of life indicates that, while humanity may have been created for immortality, humanity was not created immortal. As a result of the garden incident, what was once meant to be achieved by pleasant means now only becomes available by not so pleasant means. In another great Biblical irony, immortality is achieved through death. As the line in Jesus Christ Superstar says: “To conquer death you only have to die”. Jesus Himself is our pattern, the one who goes before us to show us the way.

“…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

(Hebrews 12:2; RSV).

        So Paul was correct in saying death entered through one man’s disobedience, but death enters indirectly, sneaking in unseen through the back door. Or out the front gate, depending on your point of view. (Paul, of course, was also correct in saying life was restored by Christ Jesus). Access to the tree of life was denied. The garden couple were allowed to live out their natural life, then they died. So what exactly was the curse?

First the serpent-destined to go on his belly. And then there’s the prophetic curse-enmity. The bruising of heels. The crushing of heads. The final victory of the woman’s offspring. Is this what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy “she will be saved through childbearing”? 

Which brings us to the woman. Pain in child bearing (witnessed this). A sometimes less then harmonious relationship with her husband (experienced this). Pain in child bearing. Do you see? Adam did, naming his wife Eve, the mother of the living. Life continues. Ultimately, the woman-and the rest of humanity as well-is saved through Christ Jesus; the person and place where justice meets mercy, where grace meets consequence (in a final demonstration of grace and consequence, God covers His rebellious couple with skins before asking them to leave His garden). As the Psalmist wrote:

“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;

righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,

and righteousness will look down from the sky…

Righteousness will go before him,

and make his footsteps a way…”

(Ps.85:10-11,13; RSV)

Finally the ground. Thorns and thistles, leading to another adversarial relationship-the man will eat by the sweat of his brow, finally returning to the dust he once was. (note the absence of the word sin; the absence of the term ‘original sin’. Just sayin).

Speaking of consequences, our garden couple, by eating the wrong fruit, will initiate a downward spiral of violence requiring a drastic response. But for now life goes on. As the poet says :

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth goodwill to me . “

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