You may know that the first story the Bible tells about humanity (after creation) involves a man, a woman, a serpent, and a piece of fruit. It would be merely a silly story if we couldn’t all relate to it so well. Eating a piece of fruit – could anything be more trivial?
But the brilliant storyteller behind Genesis 3 makes sure that we understand it’s about more than fruit. There’s a temptation behind the temptation.
Pride. Autonomy. Idolatry. Ego. Self Reliance.
It goes by many names, but it is the temptation behind every temptation. It’s a thought that runs something like this:
“Maybe life would be better if I go my own way.”
“Maybe happiness can be found apart from God. Maybe, instead of living as part of his story, I can write my own with Go din a supporting role.”
It didn’t work. It doesn’t work. God predicted, back in Genesis 3, that the path the man and woman were choosing would not lead to happiness but instead to conflict, pain and disappointment. Now, with millennia of history in the rear view mirror, we know his prediction to be true.
What we think will bring us lasting happiness cannot. Be it a purchase, a promotion, or a person, it will, sooner rather than later, crumble under the weight of our expectations. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, wrote that much of what we call history, “Money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery” is really the “long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
But there’s one more character in Genesis 3. Besides the man, the woman, and the serpent, there is God. For just a moment, put yourself in his shoes. He knows that there is no such thing as happiness apart from himself. Love, joy, peace, and all such things are not external and separate from him. They are fruits of his very spirit. They are integral and internal to God.
So, when these children of yours choose, whether in Genesis 3 or yesterday, to walk away and go their own way, your heart breaks and your options are few. Only two really.
You can abandon them. Leave them to the darkness and brokenness. It is, after all, the path they chose.
You can go to them once more. You can reach out, risking rejection once more, but it will be no small risk. Though the first pursuit was in a garden paradise, this second pursuit will be in a world of sin and agony and injustice, the kind of world that invents wooden crosses and crowns of thorns.
It is the riskiest of plans that God chose.
And that is the meaning of Christmas. When we chose our own path, one of darkness and brokenness, God was so committed to his relationship with us that he chose that path too. He reaches out to us, not only in a comfortable paradise but also in a world of hellish evil.
El Shaddai, God Almighty, preferred to be Immanuel, God with us. In temptation, we went our own way. In love he came for us. He is wonderful, isn’t He?
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