Sermon for October 7th, 2018
It is not good that man should be alone. That is what God declares after shaping Adam from the dust of the earth. It is not good that man should be alone. Our Bible begins with the book of Genesis and the book of Genesis begins with the story of how God created the heavens and the earth and all the animals on the earth. And after God created each thing he declares that: “it is good.” But here for the first time God declares that something is: “not good.” Everything that God created is good, but for this last creature, the creature formed in the image of God, there is something that is not good and that is to have a solitary existence, to be alone. Man needs a partner. None of the other animals that God has created are suitable as a partner for Adam; they are all too different. As much as Adam may love all the dogs and the cats and the monkeys, he can’t experience real companionship with them, not really, because he doesn’t see them as equals. Adam has not yet met his match.
So God causes a deep sleep to come over Adam and he takes a part of him, a piece from his side, and he crafts that into woman, Eve. And when Adam sees the woman he says: “at last! bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh. This is the missing piece of me.” This was not an inferior animal, but an equal partner and companion. They were not to be in competition with each other but were to come together and work as one. Two separate souls that recognize in each other a missing part of themselves. Two individuals that can stand before each other naked and unashamed.
That is Genesis chapter 2 and what a wonderful world it would be if the story of humanity just stopped there. But it doesn’t. We know that that is not the world that we live in now. Genesis has a chapter 3. And in chapter 3 the world we now know comes in like a bolt of lightening: Adam and Eve are tricked into trusting the serpent more than they trust God. They disobey God and their relationship with God, and with each other changes forever. Women and men start blaming each other and resenting each other; equality is gone, shame and domination enter in; competition and jealousy enter in, and not just between men and women. Brother will rise up against brother, tribes and nations will form and they will be set against each other. Women and children will become property; relationships will become transactions and business arrangements. In the beginning, God recognized our need for partnership and companionship and love, God recognized that we needed to be joined together, but our own sinful desires tore us apart. God wanted union, but what we decided to pursue instead was division.
We still live in that fallen world. We live in the world of Genesis chapter 3. There is no denying that or getting around it. From almost the beginning of human history, our relationships have not been exactly as God designed and desired them to be. People talk about how marriage has been redefined lately, but I’ve got news for you, we have been redefining marriage for a very long time, all the way back to when Adam first blamed Eve for his bad choices. We live in a world of hardened hearts. We live in a world of abuse and inequality and pain and brokenness. We live in a world where it is easier to divide people than it is to join them together. We cannot pretend to be living in the Garden of Eden anymore, because we no longer live in that world.
None of our relationships are exactly as God intended and created them to be. Not one of them. Not our relationships with our spouses, not our relationships with our parents or our brothers and sisters, not our relationships with our neighbors. There is not one relationship in your life that is not in some way stained by human sinfulness. And sin is divisive. Sin likes to add division to division, always pushing people further and further away from each other. For thousands of years people have been divided over whether divorce is possible and on what grounds. People today have divided opinions about what does or does not constitute a marriage. We live in a divided world and we have for a very long time, and the divisions keep multiplying.
The questions for us, as people who worship a god that has declared partnership and companionship good, and division and separation not good, is: “what side are we actively working for?” Are we working for union or division? In word and thought and deed, are we working to draw people together, or are we working to further divide them? If someone has gone through a painful divorce do we remind them that Christ knows the pain of being broken and hurt? Do we tell them that his forgiveness is greater than our sinfulness? Or do we add division to division driving them further away from the community? Should we deny communion to the people who probably most need to be reminded of the unifying power of God’s love? Lord, I hope not.
We are called, as Christians, to bring people to Jesus, not to stop them. We don’t have to call divorce good to recognize that sometimes it might be the least worst option. It could be better than forcing people to live in toxic or abusive relationships that just lead to further division and worse pain. Since Genesis chapter 3, division exists in our world, we can’t get away from it, but we don’t have to work for it; we don’t have to be servants of it. I really don’t care what the issue is whether it is remarriage, or gay marriage, or who is called to leadership in the church, or whatever else, if we are trying to use God’s law to separate people from each other or to separate people from God, then we are misusing it, plain and simple. God’s law is there to draw us closer to him and to each other, not to drive us further away.
We no longer live in the world of Genesis chapter 2. We can’t go back; not on our own. Sin and divorce and division and disagreement are a part of our world, and no matter how many good decisions we make, or how many good or bad relationships we have, we are all going to need the grace and mercy of God to enter into his kingdom. But the good news of our faith is that we have it. Jesus Christ is God’s solution to the third chapter of Genesis. His life and death, his suffering and resurrection and ascension are how God is dealing with the brokenness, sin and division in our world. We would be wise to listen to his teachings and to pattern our lives after his behavior, but in the end his life is about so much more than just teaching us to make good decisions. Jesus reminds us that God desires to hold and bless his children. Jesus wants people to be drawn together, not torn apart. Living in a broken and divided world we must always ask ourselves: am I drawing people closer to Christ or pushing them further away? Our role as Jesus’s disciples is very simple and he is very clear about it: Let the children come to me, and DO NOT STOP THEM! We can leave the rest to Jesus.