Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Long Road to Life

Here's the next question from Aaron:
“If Adam and Eve had repented of their sin, would they have still gotten kicked out of the garden?”
Aaron, I find your question interesting and it captures some misconceptions people have about sin and forgiveness.  To answer your question succinctly: yes, God would kick Adam and Eve from the garden, even if they repented instead of trying to hide their sin.  With our western American sensibilities, we cringe at this answer. The moment Adam and Eve reached for that fruit they took the long road away from the garden.  They could never again live in this paradise. 

Now to the work of demonstrating this.  There are several elements of your question we need to examine flesh out the answer.  First, what exactly happens in sinSecond, what is the nature of repentanceFinally, what is the nature of forgiveness and restoration.

1. Sin
Here is our problem with sin: we are legalists, all of us.  We want to know what I can get away with and still be justified.  Worse is when we think we are doing well (or not doing well, depending) and we make up our own laws for other people. We do this so we can measure ourselves as more justified than the average person. 

Running from God is not like running from a bear.  When you are running form the bear you don’t have to be the fastest you just can’t be the slowest.  The problem with God is that he is holy.  His holiness demands holiness.  And God’s holiness will judge us all collectively and individually (Nehemiah 9:1-2, Jonah 1:2, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 6:8-13, Matthew 3:2-4, 4:17, Romans 3:23-24). 

This is why we cannot simply just repent.  Sin corrupts.  Sin is more than, “whoops I went 5 over the speed limit,” or “at least I didn’t kill that guy” (yet!). Sin is about a corruption of the heart and mind (Ephesians 2:1-3, Romans 1:21-25).  When sin enters the soul, the soul is corrupted.  The soul can no longer measure up to the perfect standard of clarity. 

Take for instance the clarity of a fresh glass of water.  Once you drop ink into it, it is no longer perfectly clear.  The clarity is corrupted.  Repentance in this case is to stop pouring the ink into the water but that does not clear up the water.  You need a high RPM centrifuge to separate the ink out from the water now.  For all intents and purposes the effect of the ink in the water is permanent. 

God understood this in Genesis 3:22-23 when God, speaking corporately says, “‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever’— therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.”  Man must leave the garden because he is corrupted by the knowledge of evil.  If they were allowed to stay they would have access to the Tree of Life and thus cement the effects of their corruption forever. 

2 Repentance
This brings us to the question of repentance. What is repentance?  The idea of repentance in the Bible has two parts.  A) remorse for one’s actions and 2) a turning away from the habit of the sin. 

I believe that, in Genesis 4:1, we see Eve repent from her sin.  Her sin was the sin of rebellion shown through doubt in God’s promises.  In this passage Eve holds Cain and says, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” I think she is believing in the promise that through her a son will be born who will crush the head of the snake, thus restoring them to the right order in the garden (Genesis 3:15). Sadly, Cain (spoiler alert) is not the son to restore anything.

So then we ask again, “Why in this moment is Eve’s (potential) repentance not enough?”  Even if it was true repentance why was it not enough to restore her back to the garden? 

3) Forgiveness
Why is repentance alone not enough? We, now, have to delve into the definition of forgiveness.  What is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is about absorbing a debt. 

Let us say I borrow some random person’s Jeep Grand Cherokee (heretofore shall be called JGC) and I drive it like a reckless fool.  As a result, I roll said JGC.  The engine falls out and the thing is TOTALED (in all caps).  There is only the seatbelt and the driver’s seat still intact. 

In this moment I repent from my reckless driving.  I drive the speed limit, in the right hand lane, the rest of my life.  I express to my friend and owner of the JGC my remorse and sorrow from my actions. I have repented from the actions that caused the destruction. 

There is still a problem of one JGC that has to be reconciled.  Let’s say I come to you and say, “I regret my bad driving please forgive me for rolling your car.”  The JGC does not magically return to life.  No, for forgiveness to happen the offended has to absorb the dept.  If this jeep owner tells me, “tough nuggets you have to pay me back.” He is even nice enough to set up a payment plan so I can get him his money back.  This is just and fair, but this is not forgiveness

Forgiveness is when you say, “I will not remember the price of my car against you ever again.”  What my friend is saying, “I will pay the price of the car. I will absorb the debt of your reckless driving.”  Forgiveness is contingent on the one offended and not the one in debt.  (This is why the disciples reacted to Jesus teaching on forgiveness by saying, “WHAT!  You are going to have to increase my faith Lord!” (Luke 17:1-5))

It all comes together
Tying everything together Adam and Eve sinned against God by the nature of their rebellion and were thoroughly stained at their cores.  They (possibly) repented and that is good but the stain and the debt still remained.  For forgiveness and restoration to happen the price of the sin must be payed and the stain cleansed.

God, refusing to diminish His glory and longing to display His love, offers a new road to the Tree of Life.  It is the long road.  From the moment Adam reached out his hand he was only able to walk the long road.  It is the long road of forgiveness, the long road of restoration.  Only God is truly able to walk that road with us and for us.  

This is what makes the good news of Jesus so amazing.  Jesus is the proof that we are forgiven.  He is the penalty of sin taken for us.  The painful road of restoration walked with us.  We are not alone in our restoration.  We are not alone in our repentance.  We have a God who loves us.  We have a God who calls the restored His sons and daughters.  We have a God who says, “I will absorb the debt so you can be forgiven and restored.” This is truly good news.  We do not earn it. He gives it. 

This is why Adam and Eve were not immediately restored.  They had to walk the longer road.  In the end restoration will not simply be a small garden for two, but a grand and glorious city.  A city rich in diversity and unified by glory. 

Yes, Adam and Eve are restored.  And we are restored in Jesus.  The long road takes us to the City of Light.  We will never again return to the garden.

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