Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bible Road Trips: Out and East of Eden

The Bible has many stories of roads and highways. This is an occasional series of meditations based on those scriptures.

Out and East of Eden
Read Genesis 2:5-4:17, Romans 5:15-17

Do you sometimes feel that you’ve lost your way in life, that something happened and you can’t regain a sense of purpose?

We all know the stories of Adam and Eve and their sons. The beautiful story of creation, created good in all its vastness and variety, becomes despondent, tragic when humans are on the scene. How long were Adam and Eve in the garden before they made their fateful, foolish choice? A few minutes? Several years?

In my imagination, I picture a road or path from the garden, that Adam and Eve took when God sent them out of Eden. How far on the path of banishment did the couple go? Where did they find land fertile for farming? Filling out biblical details, I think they could have worked a farm only a short distance from the garden, in sight though blocked from further access, the light of the angel shining on their work in the twilight hours. But they may have gone farther, out of sight, and the journey was more painful.

There was a more painful road yet. Their son Cain leaves the crime scene of his hurt and jealousy and takes the road of escape, the way east of Eden. There, Cain travels the land of wandering, where he builds a city. It’s a deep oxymoron: cities are stationary, but this one is in the land of no rest, no “roots,” though he tries to find roots by naming the city for his son.

Many writers and artists realize (and develop in their art) a key point in these stories: Cain in his wrongdoing is traveling the way of his parents. He did not escape their guilt and wrongdoing but he takes it to a different place.

Of course, we know what that is like. The Hebrew word “adam” means “human,” and this is one of the most human stories: the mistakes of our parents become our mistakes, too. We try so hard not to repeat our parents’ heartache but do so, anyway. Nature and nurture shape our personalities, character, and journeys of life. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus puts it, character is destiny.

But thank God we are not helpless in the face of destiny; God is always at work in our lives, guiding and leading, nudging us, holding us by the scruff of our necks, filling us with the Spirit that convicts, reminds, and creates opportunities.

Turn the pages of your Bible from Adam and Eve’s story, across hundreds of pages to the book of Romans, chapter 5, where Paul connects Adam theologically with Jesus and thus promises the grace of Christ, greater than human sin.

For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15-17).

Bold words, considering the enormity of human sin! Read all of Romans 5:12-21, where Paul contrasts Adam and Jesus. These words are hard to believe, considering the horrors we read each day in the news, considering the fears we have about the future.

But God has sent his son Jesus to provide us the abundant grace and help that brings us back from whatever far country we’re lost. That gift is free!

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