What about Original Sin

It has been the title of several novels, songs and movies and the inspiration for more art than I can count.   But we’re not looking at literature, music or art this morning.

We are at the end of our “Asking for a Friend” series where we have answered questions that the Cornerstone family has submitted online.

And through the summer we’ve answered questions like, “How can a loving God send people to hell?”  “What does it mean to Bless God?” and “Why didn’t Jesus turn the water into grape juice or sparkling cider?  And last week Pastor Deborah did a great job on “Why does the God in the Old Testament seem different from the God in the New Testament?”

This morning’s question is “Why does all of humanity have to suffer with sin because Adam sinned one time?  it doesn’t seem fair.”

And that’s a good question. 

The story of Adam’s sin, technically Adam and Eve’s Sin, is recorded in the book of Genesis and is often referred to as “Original Sin” or “Ancestral Sin”.  And original sin is defined in Wikipedia this way, “Original sin, in Christian theology, is humanity’s original state of sinfulness (propensity toward active sinning) resulting from the Fall of Man.

So, while many of you are familiar with the concept and the story of original sin it would be presumptive of me to assume that everybody is. 

The story is told in the first book of the bible.  Bring you up to speed, God has created the heavens and the earth and all the critters and then he finishes by creating the first people, Adam and Eve.

And with their creation they are given responsibilities and guidelines, or rules.  The responsibilities are spelled out in Genesis 1:26-28 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Nice and simple, their responsibility was to make more people and to be in charge, not a bad job description.  

And the rules are spelled out in Genesis 2:15  The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

Just as simple, you can do whatever you want, just don’t eat the fruit of that one tree.  You can eat the fruit from any other tree, just not that tree.

And of course, you know happened in Chapter 3?   Yep, fruit salad for lunch.

Ramón Gómez de la Serna  wrote, “When a woman orders fruit salad for two, she perfects the original sin.”

Let’s pick up the story in Genesis chapter 3, Genesis 3:1-6  The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

I could preach an entire sermon just from those six verses, and I have.  That’s not what I’m going to do today.

Let’s start with What Original Sin Wasn’t 

One of the myths about original sin that has been promoted in some quarters is that the original sin was sex.  That the forbidden fruit was simply a metaphor for what happened.  As a matter of fact, because of that belief the term “forbidden fruit” has become synonymous with illicit sexual activity.

And there are all kinds of opinions on this, and those opinions range from the silly to the academic, but they are all based on speculation and they all end with the shame that was felt by Adam and Eve when they realized that they were naked.

Remember at this point in the creation account the first couple were given a “you must do” commandment and a “you must not do” commandment. 

The must do command was that they were to “be fruitful and multiply’, they were to make more people.  And unless things were very different at creation then they are now there was only one way to do this.

I remember years ago a couple who attended Cornerstone at the time became pregnant and he told me, “We just have to sneeze and we’re pregnant.  Really?  I commented at the time, “The way it happened with us sounds like a lot more fun.”  But I digress.

So, it would appear that the first couple had been in fact commanded to reproduce.   And we have to assume that unless there was a dramatic model redesign after the fall, they had all the equipment they needed, both for procreation and for pleasure. 

So, if they were created to make love to each other and were required to populate the world, and there’s only one way for that to happen, then sex couldn’t have been the reason for the fall.   

So, if sex wasn’t the original sin, what was? 

Good question which leads us to the next point, What Original Sin Was  The simple answer here was it was disobedience to God’s command.   He said “Don’t eat the fruit from that one tree” and they ate the fruit from that one tree.  But it goes deeper than that.

Let’s go back to the story, Genesis 3:1  The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

So, their disobedience began when they became dissatisfied with what God was providing them.   

The first thing Satan got them to do was to question God and question his motives. 

How often do our sinful actions, whatever they might be, begin when we start to question the why of what God requires from us?  “

Why can’t I do this?”  “Why do I have to do that?”  “If God truly loved me, he’d understand.”

And so, Satan whispers lies to us, “God just wants to ruin your fun.”  “Reserving sex for marriage is so unfair”, “you can do that, it won’t hurt.” “One more drink is fine.”  “God doesn’t want you to be unhappy in your marriage, you’d be happier with a different spouse.”  And the lies continue.

Which is why Jesus warned those who rejected him in John 8:44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

You’ve heard me say before, a dog isn’t a dog because he barks, he barks because he’s a dog, and Satan is not a liar because he lies, he lies because he is a liar.

So, things began when Satan got Adam and Eve to question God’s motives.  Let’s keep reading.

Genesis 3:6  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom . . .

Eve’s Dissatisfaction turned into Greed 

Man, there is so much wrapped up in this, when we want what we can’t have.  This is why one of the Ten Commandments warns us about coveting.  And ultimately so much of human misery is wrapped up in this, when people are willing to do virtually anything to get those things that don’t belong to them.

You want your neighbour’s wife and you become an adulterer, you want your neighbour’s camel and you become a thief, you are jealous of your neighbour’s reputation and so you become a slanderer and a liar.

The first couple had everything they needed.  They had access to everything in the Garden and what did they want?  The one thing that didn’t belong to them. 

Let’s keep reading, Genesis 3:6  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

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Dissatisfaction Led to Greed and The Greed Led to Disobedience

It wasn’t enough that Eve was tempted by the Devil then she tempted Adam. 

They both gave into that temptation and disobeyed God.  They didn’t have.  They could have told Satan to get lost, they could have asked for God’s help, they could have simply turned and walked away.  Understand, they didn’t have to do what they did but they did it anyways.

And you know the rest of the story, if we keep reading, we discover, Genesis 3:7

At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

I personally don’t think the shame they felt was over their physical nakedness, I think it was that they saw themselves in a whole new light, as sinners and they had no idea how to fix that, so they attempted to fix what they perceived was a physical problem, when in reality it was a spiritual problem. 

It would seem that part of the garden gig was they had a personal relationship with God, and that evening when God came to spend time with Adam and Eve, they were nowhere to be found, they were hiding from him because of their disobedience. 

Let’s keep reading,  Genesis 3:11-13  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

And when they were caught there was a lack of repentance.   Instead of owning up to what had happened and seeking forgiveness, they sought to shift the blame.  Adam blamed Eve and God and Eve blamed the serpent.   

Which brings us to the scripture we started with and the question of the week. 

Romans 5:12  When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

And the question of course was “Why does all of humanity have to suffer with sin because Adam sinned one time?  it doesn’t seem fair.”

The Consequences of Original Sin

So, how do we suffer because of the first sin?  Well, according to the scripture, when Adam sinned, sin entered the world.  Up to that point there had been no envy, no greed, no disobedience. 

So just a few thoughts as we attempt to sort through the question. 

Here is the reality, Adam changed the pathway for all those who would follow after him.  He chose the road that humanity would walk.   Adam had to choose to not follow God.  But, because of his decision, everyone who came after him has to choose to follow God.

Did you catch that, Adam had to choose to not follow God?  But, because of his decision, everyone who came after him has to choose to follow God.

 A choice still has to be made; it is simply a different choice. 

Theologians tell us that because of Adam’s choice we have a propensity to sin, or a bent toward sin.  This is our natural inclination is to do the wrong thing, not the right thing. 

We’ve been down this road before, if you don’t believe me, the evidence is in children.  You have to teach a child to say thank you, to be polite, to do the right things.  You don’t have to teach them to be rude or throw tantrums, or to throw toys.

And our propensity to sin was determined by the choices made by Adam and Eve.

Our paths have always been determined by decisions made by those who came before us. 

Because my great-grandfather chose to jump ship in Halifax instead of returning to Estonia, his path changed.  Because he chose to move to Grand Manan and not stay in Halifax, his path changed again.  But it wasn’t just his path he was changing, because he never returned to Estonia and met a nice Estonian girl and settled down, an entire family doesn’t exist that might have.

On the other hand, because of those choices my family is here today.  His decisions not only changed the trajectory of his future but changed the trajectory of the future.

Is it fair?  No but it is reality.

Which leads us to the second thought, without original sin, we probably wouldn’t be here.  I am a student of history, and I marvel at how things could have changed with a tweak here or a tweak there. 

If Adam and Eve hadn’t rebelled, then all of human history would have turned out different, undoubtably without us.

That’s life.  All our lives have been shaped by decisions made, years and hundreds of years, before our story began.  And those decision have shaped our lives, sometimes for the positive and sometimes for the negative.

When society apologizes to anyone today for things our ancestors did to their ancestors, I often think that however horrific those events and actions may have been, without them things would have been different and the different may not have included us.

Is it fair?  No but it is reality.

Let’s go back to our scripture, Romans 5:12  When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

If the first consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin was the propensity to sin, then the second thing we inherited as a result of their actions was death. 

Paul tells us that Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.  

There are those who would say this was physical death, that Adam and Ever were created to live forever.   Really?

Think about it, the first command for the first couple was to reproduce, so eventually things would have gotten really crowded. 

I lean more to the theory that this was a spiritual death.  We were created to live with God forever, and Adam and Eve’s actions led us down a path of separation from God, or to a spiritual death. 

And now we have to choose to live with God forever, it’s no longer the default. 

But the question wasn’t what is or isn’t original sin or even what were the consequences original sin, the question was “Why does all of humanity have to suffer with sin because Adam sinned one time?  it doesn’t seem fair.”

I spent a lot of time with the question this week, and the analogy that made it most clear for me was sports analogy.  Which is really weird, because I have very little interest in sports.

But the analogy the author drew was that if you are on a particular team then all the team suffers for the action of one player, and we are all on team Adam.

So, when Brad Marchand gets a penalty, like that would ever happen, he may be the one who winds up in the box, but the entire team pays a price.  

They are playing short-handed, their game is thrown off etc.  Even though it wasn’t their fault, that is part of being on a team.

The upside of that is that when Brad gets out of the penalty box and makes a great goal, even though the rest of the team may not have touched the puck, they all benefit.

And even though we are all on Team Adam, we don’t have to stay on that team.    Listen to the last part of the scripture that was read for us earlier, Romans 5:15-16  But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

To stay with the sports analogy, we might be on a particular team, in this case, Team Adam, but we don’t have to stay there.  We are free agents.

We can choose to become a member of another team.  And while we might not feel it is fair that we have to pay the consequences of Adam’s sin when we are part of his team, in the same way we can enjoy the benefits of Jesus’s sacrifice when we join his team.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

So, well it may not seem fair that we all bear the consequences of Adam’s sin, we also benefit from the sacrifice of Jesus.  That is the scandal of Grace, and that doesn’t really seem fair either.

Here is the reality, Adam and Eve had to make a choice, and each one of us has to make the same choice.  We will either say God’s will be done or we will say my will be done.  But understand it will be your choice.

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