Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eden and Relationships

We’ve been working through some basic ideas about God’s character that spring from His actions in an environment where sin does not impede our view of the relationship between God and man. Though there is a day coming when the relationship between heaven and earth will be free and unrestricted once more, it has not been that way for a long, long time and certainly not in your experience or mine. In fact, it hasn’t been clearly observable since Eden ...

The First Relationship

In Genesis 2:23, God sees Adam alone. There’s no helper suitable in all the animal kingdom. So in verse 22, the Lord fashions a woman from the rib which he had taken from the man and brings her to Adam. In response (and wonder) Adam exclaims, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”.

Perhaps for you — and certainly for me — this really stretches credulity; can you imagine a marriage, and a wedding, and a couple living together … who do not fight? Ever? Over anything? In Eden, Adam could look at his wife, and he could say, “She is utterly perfect. She exactly meets every single need I have in a partner”. And Eve could look at Adam and say, “He’s ideal. I can’t imagine anyone better”.

Can you imagine a marriage where there was no argument about headship? There was no domination by Adam, no selfishness or ignorance; he loved Eve fully and without reservation and would do anything for her. On Eve’s part, there was no question of submission being difficult or unpleasant — who wouldn’t submit to the perfect man? For the first couple for a short time it was just a beautiful cohabitation, a perfect union, singular in purpose.

Funny how things have worked out.

Inverted Relations

Think about the sadness leaving that garden meant. In following the leading of the serpent, Eve sinned and Adam followed her. Headship and submission were exactly inverted from God’s intent. 

Adam and Eve are driven out of the garden and in what appears to be quite a short span of years, their eldest son murders his younger brother. In that moment, as a parent, you really lose not only one son, you lose two. The first murder that occurs is experienced by Adam and Eve as parents. In their immediate family, Cain kills Abel.

Now there are problems in my family that I wish never arose; it’s little comfort perhaps but usually I can tell myself I don’t know what the cause of my family’s suffering truly is. Maybe it was my wayward uncle. Maybe it was my great-grandma’s DNA. Maybe it was something or someone utterly unrelated; just a quirk or a circumstance. I’d answer the Pharisees’ question “who sinned that this man was born blind?” with a shrug. After many centuries of intertwining sin and untoward influence, root causes are an insoluble tangle of guesses. Apart from a blanket claim of “sin”, who knows where evil and calamity in this world comes from with any sort of precision, who can name THE sin that brought about the current crisis you may be facing? Not me. And not you.

But Adam and Eve knew. They knew exactly why this calamity has befallen their family, and they could trace it back to a single event and a single moment in the garden when they chose to deny God and rebel against God; rebel against One who had done nothing but bless them, and nothing but fellowship with them, nothing but delight with them and in them. Once out of the garden and with a devastated family tree, who is to blame? Adam and Eve need only look in the mirror.

What do you suppose that did to their relationship?

Relationship Consequences

Do you think there was ever a night when they turned off the bedside lamp and they lay back. Adam feeling a little melancholy says something like this: “Cain, Cain, Cain ... I miss Abel. Why did you ever listen to that serpent, why did you ever take that apple?”

And Eve of course replies with some heated variant of “Are you blaming me?”

Actually, we don’t have to guess about the whole “blaming Eve” part do we? Here’s Adam’s response to God when questioned about his own sin:
“The woman you gave me …”
Who did Adam blame for Abel’s death? It’s not recorded, but I bet there were some interesting discussions. Discussions that brought — for the first time — some serious conflict into the marriage.

As difficult as it is for us to live without really knowing what Eden was like, I think in some ways it would have been harder for Adam and Eve to have lived outside the garden. We imagine and dream what perfection might be like — what a true ‘perfect’ marriage might mean. But they could remember it, and they could remember what it was like to walk with God. They could recall a time when they didn’t argue and never had. They could remember what it was like when their relationship wasn’t one in which Eve was constantly trying to grab the steering wheel and Adam was domineering.

Relationships and Restoration

Eden’s primary relationship was that of creation to Creator — and the perfection of that was ruined by sin. In that same moment, marriage was forever marred along with every other sort of human interaction you and I covet — friendship, parenthood, co-workers and the rest. None of our relationships remain unscarred by the first Adam’s failure and all are fatally damaged.

Happily, none of our human relationships need remain unrestored by the Second Adam’s work. God longs to invade our relationships and infuse them with renewed blessing. As Christians we can enjoy better marriages, deeper friendships, more fulfilling parenthood — if we commit those relationships to a blesser-God’s leading.

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