Sin is not about the personal imperfection of the self. Rather, sin is any act that breaks any of the relationships God declared very good in the beginning.
• Lisa Sharon Harper
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On Sundays in Easter, we are hearing from Lisa Sharon Harper about The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. Her book is about the fullness of the good news that Jesus lived, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven to give us. Harper tells us that this good news is about shalom, the opposite of our often “thin” understanding of the gospel.
Chapter three has Lisa Harper exploring Genesis 2, a more intimate look at God’s good creation and the calling of humans to live in relationship with each other and the abundant creation in which he placed them.
On our most basic level, we were created for relationship with God, within community, with the rest of creation, and between genders. And on a deeper level, all human relationships depend on one central relationship: humanity’s relationship with God. After all, our life breath— life itself— was given by God. The community of the rest of creation was given by God. And, ultimately, the extravagant gift of bonded human companionship was the gift of God. What human fulfillment can there be apart from God?
The test that Adam and Eve faced was a test of their loving relationship with God. As Harper notes, two of the most fundamental characteristics of an adult love relationship are trust and choice. The couple in the garden was presented with an opportunity to trust God’s word, even when it involved a prohibition of something enticing, and to choose to act on that trust by not eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
At root the question they faced was “Do I love God?” This question is at the heart of all our relationships, and how we exercise trust and choice in the context of those relationships determines whether or not they advance shalom and strengthen the web of relationships in which we live.
Genesis 1 and 2 offer clear pictures of the Kingdom of God, showing what it looks like and what it requires of its citizens. God created us in an interconnected web of overwhelmingly good relationships, and love is the powerful tie that binds us together. The choices we make regarding how we gain peace reveal whether or not we trust God and choose God’s ways to peace and fulfillment. To choose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil— which results in greed, consumption, exploitation, nationalism, misogyny, and other-ism— is to become an enemy of God’s purposes in our world.
However, we all know what happened…
Love would have led the man and woman to ask God about the tree before eating from it. Love would have led them to trust God’s heart and intentions. But they didn’t love God with their actions, and down went the interconnected web of relationships that God had created. The relationships were ripped apart, separated by sin.
Lisa Harper observes that, in the biblical story, it is only thirteen chapters from “very good” to nations at war.
At root, this anti-shalom situation springs from the failure to love through trusting and choosing to honor love by our actions.