Wednesday, September 16, 2009

community crashers (life outside the garden)


What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
It’s Christmas! Eve!

Ok, so a little trivia from last week – in one word, why are we here? Community. That’s right, our story begins with perfect community. And let me tell you, life in that first nudist colony was good. Adam and Eve were free to do anything they pleased. Nothing was off limits – well, except for one thing:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."

Why would God make such a weird rule? Just for fun, let’s say that you’re traveling to LA for a night and can’t afford a hotel room. And so this guy, who’s really rich and generous, puts you up in his mansion on the Pacific Ocean for free. And this place is fully loaded. Nice cars? Check. Flat screen TV? Check. Whatever else you want? Check. You see, he’s going away on business and needs a house sitter and so he tells you – “it’s all yours. Have fun.” Except - there’s this one red popsicle in the freezer, and according to the owner, “that red popsicle is off limits. Have the green one or the purple one. Do anything you want. Just don’t eat that red popsicle.” Why would he make such a weird rule? Hold that thought.

Let’s go back to the Garden, where Adam and Eve were in perfect community. Remember, there was no hiding, no concealing, and no guilty secrets that separated them. According to Genesis, they were “naked and not ashamed.” Adam and Eve stood before God and each other, and every dimension of their soul and body was fully exposed. They were fully known and fully accepted. Adam and Eve and God were in perfect community.

But then something happened, which Christians traditionally have called “the Fall” – and the idea behind the Fall is that humanity was made for perfect community, but because of our own deliberate choice, we “fell” from that state. In other words, the “Fall” is the fancy church-word that describes the mess that our world is currently in. And personally, I like this term. But tonight, I’d like to introduce a new term that might be a bit more practical – not only because it describes Adam and Eve and all the other characters in the Bible, but because it describes us too. And that term is community crashers. Community crashers are people who find themselves powerless – completely unable – to live into the perfect community that God designed them for. And so tonight we hear the story of the world’s first community crashers, and if we listen carefully, we’ll see that it’s our story too.

by John Newton

Eve stands with her husband in the Garden of Eden – both naked as a jaybird – just chilling by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A snake slivers up to Eve and “asks” a question.

So God actually said you can’t eat from any of these trees?

No, we can eat the fruit off the trees – except this tree right in the middle of the garden. In fact, we can’t even touch it. Or we’ll die!

That’s a bunch of B.Ssssssssss. You’re not going to die! God just said that to keep you from seeing what He sees. He doesn’t want you to be His equal.

Eve looks intently at the forbidden fruit and begins to think that it’s probably pretty tasty. But the idea of being God’s equal – that sounds even better! And so after grabbing an apple she takes a bite or two and hands the rest of the fruit to Adam. Seeing that Eve is still alive, Adam also eats of the fruit. Immediately, both sense something has changed. Both examine their body in fear. Adam looks at Eve and sees a stranger. Eve looks at Adam and is filled with a horrible shame. They run in opposite directions in an effort to “clothe” themselves the best they can with fig leaves. They both sit alone – crying – until a sound is heard. Footsteps approach …

Adam? Adam? Where are you?

Hiding. When I heard you coming, I got scared and hid. I’m naked. You can’t see me like this.

How’d you figure out that you were naked? Did you disobey me and eat from the one tree that I said was off-limits?

Don’t look at me. Eve’s the one that gave it to me. She did it first. And don’t forget, You’re the one that put her here in the first place!

What do you have to say for yourself Eve? What have you done?

It’s the serpent’s fault. He tricked me.

Serpent, you are now a cursed animal. Your new diet is dirt. And Eve, having children is going to be horribly painful because of this, and your relationship with Adam will suffer. You’ll want love and intimacy, but he’ll just want to be your boss. And Adam, searching the earth for food will be harder for you than childbirth is for Eve. You can’t stay in the Garden anymore. Your life is now work, work, work. And make no mistake – you’ll work yourself to death.

God fights to make sense of what has happened. He feels betrayed and for the first time God sees something on the earth that is not what he intended. He looks around – “not good.” In silence, God and his two image-bearers walk slowly to the Gate of Eden. No words are spoken as God hands Adam and Eve two sets of clothing that He made for them out of animal skins. Adam and Eve leave the Garden. Each one is utterly alone.


Ok, let’s start with a question. When something happens to you, how do you determine whether it’s good or whether it’s evil? For example – your significant other tells you he or she wants to start “seeing” other people, or let’s just say you don’t get into the only grad school you’ve ever wanted to attend? By a show of hands, does anyone think these things are good? But how do you know? In my experience, we usually say that something is good when it makes us feel good, or perhaps when it gives us a sense of security. And that’s why people spend their entire lives trying to acquire for themselves what they determine to be good – whether it’s financial security or six-pack abs or the “respect” of their friends. Do you see what’s going on? When it comes to deciding between what’s good and evil, it’s usually just us deciding what is best for us – a decision that’s usually made based on how we feel.

And so the question is what happens when we’re both after the same piece of fruit – when something seems “good” to us and we go for it? For example, let’s say that me and Casey are both up for the same promotion and that we both “want” it really bad. Wouldn’t that make us competitors instead of neighbors? Or perhaps a real example. What happens when two nations both want the same strip of land – when both nations decide that it would be good if a certain piece of land belonged to them? They go to war.

You see, in making ourselves the judge of what’s good and what’s evil, what we’re actually doing is declaring our independence from God. Because to be in perfect community with God is necessarily to adopt a mentality of childlike dependence – to trust that God is not only in control, but that He has our best interest at heart. And so once again, why would God make such a strange rule? And the answer is because if they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in essence, they will be declaring their independence from God. They’ll be rejecting the perfect community that he offers. To eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is to essentially say, “Now I can decide what’s good and what’s evil apart from God or anyone else.” Which isn’t that far removed from, “now I can be my own God.”

And so let’s take a closer look at this story. It starts with a question from the serpent – did God really say that you can’t eat from any of the trees? Now obviously, God didn’t say that – He said to eat from as many of the trees as they wanted except one. And so the question is why – why would the serpent misquote God. And I think the answer is this – he wants to plant a seed in the woman’s mind so that she begins to question the goodness of God. And so the first thing I want to say about being a community crasher is this: the decision to sin, or to be a community crasher, always includes the thought that we can’t really trust God to watch out for our well-being. No one raise your hand, but how many of you have thought something like this before: I want to be obedient to God, but I’m scared that if I do – I’ll miss out on something good, something fun, something that everyone else is doing. You see, any time that we intentionally do something we’re pretty sure that God doesn’t approve of, or anytime we shove God into a corner of our mind so that we just don’t have to think about it, that’s our “inner serpent” that wants us to believe that God can’t be trusted. And when we listen to that serpent, what we’re really saying – usually subconsciously – is I don’t trust that God really knows what’s good for me. And so I’m going to have to choose for myself what’s good and what’s evil. I, and not God, will be at the center.

And so how does Eve respond? “No, we can eat from all the trees except this one,” she says. “In fact, we can’t even touch this tree – or we die.” Now, God never told Adam and Eve they couldn’t touch the tree – that’s a lie. And so what do you think Eve’s up to? I think she’s trying to make God sound a little more severe, a little more unreasonable, than He really is. After all, it’s a lot easier to break the rules when you’ve convinced yourself that the Judge is an unreasonable tyrant.

Now, I can’t harp on Eve too much because Adam is even worst. People always blame Eve, but a careful reading of the story suggests that Adam was next to her the whole time and didn’t say a word. There was no, “Uh, Eve you’re talking to a snake. I think we better leave.” No, Adam watches in silence and then passively eats the fruit. And when God confronts him, does Adam man up and take responsibility? No, Adam actually blames God for putting this “she-devil” with him in the first place. No more “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Not anymore. You can almost hear Adam complaining, “When it was just me and the animals everything was fine.

Well, it’s like the story says, their eyes were opened – and what a nightmare they saw. The perfect community they had experienced with God and with one another was gone. And so the question is – what were they left with?

1. Shame.
The man the woman, who had never known shame, looked at each other and shame filled their hearts. They looked at what used to be their perfect partner, and each one saw a stranger.

2. Alienation.
Adam and Eve were alienated from themselves, from each other, from God, from their work, from the entire creation. Remember, they both used to walk with God in the cool of the garden. Now, when God comes to walk with them, they both run away. Alienation has entered the human experience.

3. Fear.
When God asks Adam where he is, his response is, “I hid because I was afraid.”

4. Blame.
Adam blames God. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent.

5. Pain.
Adam and Eve had never known pain. Adam will experience pain in his work. Eve will experience pain in childbirth. Both, of course, are different forms of labor. Whereas labor was intended by God to bring joy, it now brings humanity pain.

6. Death.
Adam and Eve were never supposed to experience death. But outside life in the garden – a life sustained only by a childlike dependence on the God that loves them – their life will now end in death.

Now, regardless of whether or not you believe that today’s story falls under the domain of historical fact, I do hope that you’ve come to see that it’s true – and at least that something, somewhere, happened between humanity and God that ruined the perfect community that He designed us for. Because our hunger for perfect community with God and our hunger for perfect community with one another tell us something real about the purpose that God most certainly had in creating each and every one of us. But at the same time, we all know what it’s like to experience shame, alienation, fear, blame, pain, and one day death. And to me, this suggests that the human race has missed the mark. Perfect community – that’s the mark. And we miss it. In fact, the best translation of the Greek word typically translated sin is “to miss a mark.” And that’s what being a community crasher is ultimately about – it’s about finding ourselves in a world where we miss the mark of perfect community. Being a community crasher is about deciding for ourselves what’s best – about saying that when it comes to our own life, we know what’s good and we don’t need God to help us. And because of that, we too live outside the garden.

Now, did God just wash his hands clean of Adam and Eve? No. They may be community crashers, but they’re still His image-bearers. And so God takes animal skins – which by the way means that a sacrifice was made – and makes them clothes so that they can still come into his presence without being ashamed. What an amazing picture of God’s tenderness and grace!

That being said, you and I live outside the garden. And all because we decided to take that red popsicle. And in doing so, we threw a wrench in God’s plan to bring humanity into his perfect communal life. Lucky for us, God had a rescue plan. And that’s what we’ll talk about next week.

This OMEGA series “OT Greatest Hits” is inspired by a 32-week Christian Education program put out by Willow Creek called the “Old Testament Challenge.” Some Omega talks will rely on this resource more heavily than others. Some will not even be based on it at all. However, if you have specific questions please email me at For more info on the OT Challenge, see

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