Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where re you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
You know that feeling. We all know it. It’s the most uncomfortably feeling in the world. It’s the moment you realize that you have made a big mistakes and you are going to be called on the carpet for it. It’s the moment you realize that everything you have is at risk if you can’t find a way out of admitting your guilt.
Guilt is a strange thing. It comes upon us without anyone even having to tell us that we messed up. It seems to come from somewhere deep within us. It’s that little nagging voice that tells us that we have been selfish, that we have done something to hurt or cheat someone else. It’s that little judge, jury and executioner inside us that we call a conscience telling us that we’d better admit we’ve made a mistake.
No one wants to feel guilty. Because admitting guilt makes us admit that we are not perfect, that we are not holy, that there is a little bit of imperfection in us, a part of us that is not good. No one wants to feel like a sinner.
The man called Adam was no different from you and me. In fact, the Bible tells us that Adam was the ancestor of you and me and all people. It tells us that his wife was formed from him, so that she is also a descendent of Adam, just like you and me. It tells us that we all inherit the humanity of Adam. It tells us that we all inherit the guilt of Adam.
Adam didn’t want to admit his guilt. He wanted to find a way around it. He tried hiding from God so that he wouldn’t have to face God and admit his guilt. That didn’t work so well. It didn’t take very long for Adam to realize that God knew exactly where he was hiding. Adam couldn’t run, so he tried to change the subject.
“I didn’t want you to see me naked, so I hid.”
Shame. Another very uncomfortable feeling that we all want to avoid. Shame is the product of guilt. Adam had made a fatal mistake. He admitted that he was ashamed. Why would a perfect being have to feel shame? Adam hadn’t felt any shame before. He and his wife had walked happily naked out in the open and hadn’t felt any shame. Why should they? They were perfectly made. God had put them in charge of the entire world and its creatures. Like all the other creatures, Adam and his wife paraded in their full glory, not bothering to hide a thing. But not now. Now there was shame. The jig was up. Adam had admitted that he had something to feel guilty about.
God knew that he was half way home with Adam. He had gotten him to admit that something was wrong. Now he had to get Adam to admit that he was responsible. “Adam, I told you to show your love for me by refraining to eat from the tree in the middle of this garden. Don’t tell me you ate from that tree?” Adam’s heart must have sunk within him. Here was the God who had brought him to life and given him every good thing accusing him of breaking the one easy commandment that God had given him. How could he have been so stupid? What was he going to say? At that moment, Adam could have manned up and admitted his guilt. But suddenly he thought of another dodge.
Uh, it was the woman YOU put here with me, SHE gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. Out came the excuse siblings: Not Me, and Ida Know. Well, God, I wouldn’t have eaten from the tree, but this woman ate from the tree–you know, the woman you put here. So, you see, it’s really your fault, God. If you didn’t want me to do it, you shouldn’t have given me this woman. Not only that, God, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. You see, the woman gave me some fruit, so I ate it. How was I supposed to know that it was THAT fruit. Am I supposed to keep watch over her all the time? Am I supposed to be responsible for her?
Ow. What a noble and chivalrous husband was Adam. He could have stepped up and taken the blame. Instead, he threw his wife under the bus. But, before you get too puffed up and say you would never do what Adam did, consider what Adam was facing. Earlier, God had made it clear to Adam that the tree was a test. God loved Adam and wanted him and his wife to pass the test. He wanted them to confirm their perfect love for him, just as he had perfect love for them. But he also wanted Adam to understand that there was no room for failure. Failure would render Adam and his wife imperfect. There was no room for imperfection in God’s world. So there was a consequence. Eating of the tree in question would cause a rift between God and Adam that could not be repaired. That rift would result in God condemning the man and his wife to live forever apart from him. Adam knew that admitting his sin meant to end of harmony with his perfect creator. So he made a feeble effort to excuse himself.
Well, God wasn’t buying it, but for a moment he looked away from Adam and confronted his wife. Maybe she would do the right thing and confess. But she had an excuse, too. “The Devil made me do it!” Here, then, in a nutshell, are the natural human responses to every question of guilt that there has ever been: “I am not guilty” and “I am not responsible.” With these thoughts, the entire world has tried to clear its conscience.
There are two ways to avoid responsibility for sin. The first is to change the meaning of sin. The sixth commandment says what everyone knows: it’s wrong to adulterate marriage. So the quest has been on for millennia to define adultery in such a way that no one is guilty. So it is that the leaders of the law in Jesus’ time came to him and said that Moses had allowed people to get a divorce by simply handing their wives a piece of paper. Jesus had to remind them that a civil remedy that became necessary to avoid total chaos did not change the fact that marriage was supposed to be for life. In response to the man who said they have never committed adultery, Jesus had to explain to them that a woman violated in the mind was as good as violated for real, that lusting after a woman was the same as sleeping with her.
In our present society, we have hardened our consciences to the point where we cannot fault anyone for having premarital sex, because everyone is doing it. So, we are not responsible, because we can’t be expected to hold to a standard that no one else follows. I even remember a journalist saying that there’s nothing wrong with adultery, because, after all, it was never against the law. But the fact is, yes it was.
The Bible also says that marriage is between one man and one woman. Not only does the Bible say so, but six thousand years of civilization and history say so. Within a marriage, it is possible to create stable, well-adjusted children who can perpetuate the human race. Lots of studies confirm that a family with a father and a mother is by far the best environment in which to raise a family. The Bible tell us in so many words that this is how it should be. But we don’t want to believe there’s a God who knows what’s right for us. Because that would make us responsible to him. So we say that a village can raise a child just as well as a father and mother. The Bible says that same-sex unions are an abomination to God. But we want to believe that it’s OK for two men or two women to be married and raise children, even though it then takes THREE people to have a family. In the process, we have developed another kind of excuse: the “I’m better than so-and-so” excuse.
Jesus told a story to his listeners. He talks about a Pharisee, that is, a spiritual leader of Israel, who walked into the Temple and boasted to God how good he was. “God, I thank you that I’m not like that miserable tax collector over there. I don’t cheat money out of people. And I give all kinds of things to the church. And I’m a pillar of the community.” The pharisee didn’t bother to mention that he didn’t love his parents, or that he secretly lusted after the woman next door, or that he refused to help beggars or that he cheated on his taxes. No, he wasn’t in the least concerned about his faults, because “at least my faults aren’t looked down on by the people. At least I look pretty good compared to others.” So it is now with all the various forms of adulteration of marriage that we practice. I’m not so bad. At least I don’t rape anyone. At least I don’t have sex with children. I’m not one of THOSE people. They are so very bad! But not me! I’m not so bad.
What was it about Adam’s sin that made him so guilty? After all, it was just a little fruit. I mean, Eve looked at the fruit, touched it smelled it. Nothing seemed bad about it. Couldn’t hurt to eat it, right? So she and Adam ate it, and it tasted good. But it left a really bad taste in their mouths. Because, as soon as they ate it, they knew the difference between good and evil. And they suddenly knew that they were now evil.
What is evil? Evil is anything that it not good. What is good? God is good. So evil is anything that is not God. You and me, and everyone else, are not godly by nature any more. Because we are born from evil.
Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. God didn’t condemn Adam and his wife to instant destruction. Instead, he made them a promise. He told them that he would send another man into the world who would take on the punishment that he, the righteous God, must now give out for the rebellion of Man. This offspring of Adam and the woman would complete the perfect life that Adam could no longer live. God would give Adam and his wife and all their offspring who would not refuse it a credit to their account, so that they would once more be considered perfect by God. And he would now bring death into the world. This death was going to be a door by which the evil flesh could be cast off, to be replaced by a new, perfect flesh in the next life.
Why is it so important to admit that a sin is a sin? Is it so that we can feel guilty, uncomfortable, imperfect, self-loathing? Not at all! It is for the same reason that Adam had to admit his sin. Because, until we realize that we need someone to pay for our guilt, we can never understand who Jesus is. If we cannot believe that we need a savior, we can never find that savior in Jesus. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there is only the wrath of God to face. Without forgiveness, all we can do is try to run and hide, like Adam and Eve did. But you can’t hide from God, Isn’t it better to turn to him, then, to confess your sin and be forgiven?