to be given on Sunday, February 21, 2016–2nd Sunday of Lent
Scriptural connection: Genesis 3:1-11, NLT
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man[a] and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
- Study Notes from Genesis in the Life Application Study Bible.
- Chapter 2 in Christopher J.H. Wright’s The Mission of God’s People,
One of the earliest life lessons taught children begins: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of when or where this saying originated, it reflects how God wants us to live. Unfortunately, evil is all around us. We see it, hear it, and sadly we speak it. Would God’s mission, assigned to us, be successful or even necessary if these three simple principles were maintained?
God created a world designed to meet our needs and all he asked was that we take care of it. That mission seems so simple, but the decisions humanity makes damages our world. From the smallest piece of trash we drop on the earth’s surface to the worst crime against one another, the mission has failed.
Consider the Garden of Eden’s story if the old maxim “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” had been applied. Eve would not have seen the apple nor heard the serpent. She would not have goaded Adam into eating the fruit.
But considering the “what if” of the story will not make a difference. The Bible story summarizes one of the very raw truths about humans—we make mistakes over and over. The literature of the Bible carries us through every type of mistake men and women make generation after generation. We failed God’s mission. We still fail God’s mission and fearfully we will continue to err:
- We see evil. Consider what we watch on TV, the big screen, our tablets and computers. We see evil portrayed fictionally and in reality, even watching in real time when networks interrupt with breaking news. Evil exists in Christian and non-Christian communities. Evil is visual as images degrade human worth or record horrors of war. Evil is packaged as entertainment or as news. Evil no longer is masked, it is publicized, and sometimes presented as good while greed is interpreted as profits.
- We hear evil. The words we hear are in casual conversation, possibly overheard in a store, or through the scripts of the entertainment we choose. Evil is expounded in what is said as well in how it is said. Evil is modeled through bigotry, unguarded comments around young people, and screamed as road rage boils over. Language can severe relationships, erode self-images, and even start wars. Sadly language is oral and words spoken cannot be erased. Evil fills our ears and destroys us.
- We speak evil. What we see and hear all too often causes us to speak evil outwardly, too. Consider how young children brought up in homes where abuse is part of daily life. The words they hear all too often are repeated outside of their homes. We speak what we learn. We tell others what we hear in rumors. We risk sharing negative opinions without knowing the ‘rest of the story.’ Each time we speak out in anger or ignorance we speak evil. What words we share have the potential to create or to reproduce evil in so many ways.
Back to the story of Adam and Eve: If Eve had not seen the serpent (Satan), not heard his words, would she have talked Adam into eating the fruit? This is a “what if” question that is no longer important to consider literally, rather it is a question to ask of ourselves. If we do not see or hear evil ideas, do we still speak evil?
In Wright’s text The Mission of God’s People, the failure of the mission is analyzed on four levels: physically, individually, socially, and spiritually:
Human disobedience and rebellion against the Creator God brought disastrous results (Genesis 3-11). Evil and sin weave their way into every aspect of God’s creation and every dimension of human personhood and life on earth. . . . God’s mission is the final destruction of all that is evil from his whole creation. Our mission therefore has to be as comprehensive in scope as the gospel the whole Bible gives us. (p.40-41)
Right now, Lent is the season to reflect on our lives as Christians. Are we living a God-centered life that keeps us focused on the mission of loving one another and caring for our world or are we failing the mission?
Granted evil surrounds us and living in a country that allows for each person to define one’s own ideology, it is difficult to live out a mission to share the message of loving one another; but if we do not do our best, what happens? Will evil win or will we see that God wins?
As God’s co-workers, let’s turn the old adage around:
- See the evil through God’s eyes. Do not look away when evil appears. Look at the news through God’s eyes and offer a prayer for those who offend as well as for those who are victims. Show others through your own actions how to love that will counter evil’s effect.
- Hear the evil with God’s ears. Using God’s ears, hear the words that can hurt our children, our spouses, our families and our friends. Listen carefully to learn why evil words are spewed out. Identify the source of evil and do whatever you can to relieve that source.
- Speak the love of God. Whenever possible, use your words to share God’s love. Step in and say “Stop!” when someone is using evil words, hurtful words. Love one another unconditionally. Speak the message to all that you meet in as many ways as you can. The more love we share orally, the more evil we can destroy.
Yes, the mission creation created failed when Eve and Adam ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge. The act of disobedience and rebellion is considered to the “the fall of Man/Woman.”
God had created the Garden of Eden because he loved us so much that he wanted to meet our every need. All He expected was that we take care of His creation—the earth and all that is in it, including flora, fauna, and one another. By taking care of God’s creation, we defend ourselves from evil. As Christians we accept the responsibility to carry out the mission.
Can we change things? We cannot go back and fix evil that has happened since the beginning of time, but we can pick up God’s mission and do all that we can for all we can in as many ways as we can as long as we can. We can see evil through God’s eyes; hear evil through God’s ears, and speak God’s love through our words and our actions out loud in the community in which we live.
We read the scripture, remember the story,
and now stop to reflect, to review, and to renew
the mission you created.
We see the evil surround your earth and the people in it,
and we stop to ask ourselves how have we failed
to keep the mission you created.
We look forward from creation throughout history
and seek guidance from generations of the faithful
struggling to carry out your mission.
Thank you for loving us unconditionally despite failing
to trust your words and your messengers
teaching us how to live your mission today.
Let our efforts to live a love-filled life caring for your creation
demonstrate your unconditional love to others
and keeps the mission alive for generations yet to come.