The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. . . .
Then [the Lord] said, “Where are you?”
[Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
Then [the Lord] asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” (Gen 3:6-7, 9-13)
I’m one of those Christians who is completely comfortable linking creationism and evolution. In my opinion, whether Adam and Eve found their awareness from a piece of fruit or a God-designed evolution is pointless to carp about. The fact is, once Adam and Eve became “aware” and into human consciousness, the first things they did were to hide themselves, and lie to themselves and to God.
I like the question, “Who told you that you were naked?” Prior to this consciousness Adam and Eve were happily running around naked, like every other creature in the wild. Then: awareness. And what was the awareness? That their nakedness was “dirty”? Unlikely. That their nakedness was “embarrassing?” Also unlikely. They’d had no prior example of such shame or embarrassment to draw upon.
Animals do not perceive their nakedness, but suddenly, Adam and Eve did. Was it because of evolution? Fruit? Whatever. What matters is that suddenly they knew more than they had known, and what they knew—what they suddenly understood—was that they were vulnerable.
Their awareness of their vulnerability might have led to their excuse-making, too. Until that point, they had enjoyed a blissful relationship with the Creator; there would have been no reason to fear any encounter with God. And yet, suddenly attuned to their vulnerability, they feared this encounter enough to hem and haw and blame anyone else around.
And aside from the serpent, there was only each other.
Was the first sin, then, simple disobedience, the eating of forbidden fruit? That doesn’t really seem likely, either. Obedience, like anything else, must be learned.
Rather, I think the first sin was humanity not trusting in the God who had already shown himself to be gracious, but trying to guard themselves by hiding from him; humans covering themselves up both physically and metaphorically—with fig leaves and with the sloughing off of blame onto others—rather than revealing themselves and taking responsibility for their actions.
The taint of original sin: God has been trying to get us to trust him, to reveal ourselves to him and to be vulnerable (open) to him ever since Eden.
Perhaps this explains the command by God for the Jews to circumcise the men. When God chose the Jews as his own, he required this symbolic (and real) acquiescence—this demonstrated willingness to be completely vulnerable and exposed in all circumstances. He made a covenant with them: he would be their God, they would be his people, and the deal was sealed in blood. At its shedding, man and God are bonded.
The need to be vulnerable and open to God is part and parcel of having a real relationship with him—the gift of consciousness that Adam and Eve were given (or evolved into, if you like) made a true deepening of their relationship to God possible. But any relationship, if it is to be worthwhile, must include maturation and a shared expectation of accountability. One lingering effect of original sin—and there are many—is our unwillingness to be vulnerable; another is our instinct against accountability. They’re both frightening things, especially if we are unclear on the concept of mercy, and cannot be sure it will be extended our way.
A willingness to be vulnerable and accountable—and also to be able to accept mercy and extend it to others—are vital components needed to build a lifelong, deep, and fruitful relationship with God and the world. And all three components became more difficult for us to understand and embrace once enmeshed in this first sin.
So, in order to teach us all we did not know about these things, God becomes incarnate and tries to explain. The message: Ephphatha; be opened. I will show you how. I will make myself vulnerable to you and accountable for you. You may have my blood. It is shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven, because mercy is real.
This is the greatest of the blood covenants, because the blood covers and draws into oneness not a tribe, nor a mate, but an entire creation—for better or worse. The marriage of heaven to earth, God to man.
Looked at in this way, all of the dogmas no longer seem trite. There was a reason (beyond paternity) for Mary’s virginity. Christ made his very first covenant with his own mother—the Ark of the Covenant—and took her blood for his own.
God could not make himself any more vulnerable than to come to us in this way: utterly dependent on the very humanity subject to himself, as the second person of the Trinity.
And then he went from us while hanging upon the wood of a blood-soaked cross—a necessary blood-spilling, however unjust—in order that he might be with us forever, rising from the dead with the heady message: See, I make all things new—even death cannot separate us. Come to me.
Christ has opened God to us, through himself. God does the unthinkable and makes himself vulnerable and says so through the blood; through God’s own willingness to be vulnerable he says, in essence, Come . . . stop making excuses, stop hiding yourselves, stop blaming others, stop throwing yourself away, stop running from my love. Turn and face me. Be opened, and let me love you, let me give myself to you as you give yourself to me, and this will bear fruit.
In this Lenten season, let all of our small sacrifices and minor slips render us vulnerable, and accountable, that we may be opened to him, the Divine Lover, in all of his divine mercies. Let us hear his love-talk, his whispers and his invitation to trust.
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart . . . rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment” (Joel 2:12-13).
The mystery here is that there is no mystery beyond love, and where we can trust in it without fear.