It doesn’t take long to observe that something’s wrong with humanity. Somehow, it simply isn’t living up to the promise of being created in God’s likeness. Yes, there are flashes of brilliance, creativity, and compassion. Art that stirs the soul, music that moves the feet, acts of generosity and moments of self-sacrifice are clearly evident. But there are also depths of depravity, pain, greed, and the taking of lives which scar any likeness to God. Human history is filled with these heights and depths, sometimes even within the same person.
God designed men and women with the capacity to love, to work, and to make choices. The Bible tells us in Genesis that God planted a garden called Eden for the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, to live and work in. They knew no shame, no fear, and no pain. God gave them one rule. “Don’t eat from the tree in the center of the garden, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you do will die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
The Bible records what happened next. “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.’ ” “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.” (Genesis 3:1–7, NLT) One quick note: Eve often gets the blame for listening to the serpent, but Adam was right there with her and didn’t say a word. Both failed at that crucial point.
God could have designed humanity without the ability to choose. A robot that perfectly obeys every command. But He didn’t. God instead created humanity with the capacity to love and to choose.
That moment when Adam and Eve choose to go their own way instead of God’s way is the first human sin. From then on all of Adam and Eve’s offspring and descendants are bent and tainted towards sin. Jesus likened sin’s hold over humanity as slavery in John 8:34, NASB95 “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” Death, struggle, conflict, and separation flowed to all. What should be unthinkable became normal.
We may think that God is unjust by condemning all of Adam and Eve’s offspring to suffer the punishment of their sin. But the Bible recognizes that while sin began in the garden each person is guilty because of their own sin. Paul wrote, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, NASB95) And also, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NASB95) In the same way we get our physical characteristics from our mother and father we also are born with an unshakable desire to go our own way instead of God’s way – to sin.
We are all capable of good and evil. All have the ability to love and to hate, to create and to destroy, to show mercy and to murder, to be self-sacrificial and be self-centered. To repurpose a phrase – we are all born that way. In our next article in our look at the basics, we’ll delve deeper into the riddle of humanity’s conflicted nature.