Blame, Jealousy, Murder… Oh My! (Genesis 3-4)

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. – (John 1:10)

We’re still in Genesis, but I start with this quote to give some perspective.

Things are about to get ugly.

Accusation, expulsion, jealousy and murder are about to slither their way into the world. Fear and violence have wrought their terrible consequences since the beginning of time, but Genesis anchors humanity and creation in God’s sovereignty and goodness.

How could a world created so good go so wrong?

One way to interpret Genesis’ explanation is to conclude that humans were expelled from God as punishment for disobedience, and all the subsequent grief and violence is the unfolding consequence of that disobedience.

But this understanding of God as angry, punitive, and petty has caused immeasurable damage.

What if God never expelled us from grace, but grace has only gradually, imperfectly, been recognized through experience, trial, and error?

The Gospel revelation that God’s love has always been in the world illuminates this truth.

In Genesis 2, God tells Adam that he may eat from any tree of the garden except the tree of “knowledge of good and evil,” “for in that day… you shall die.”

Knowledge of good and evil?

Evil doesn’t exist!

What if God never expelled us from grace, but grace has only gradually, imperfectly, been recognized through experience, trial, and error?

God has created all things good and given all to humanity. The one thing God tells us we shouldn’t do, however, is view the world through a lens of good vs. evil, a lens of judgmentalism.

Once we limit goodness to that which is “over-and-against” what we perceive to be “bad” or “lesser,” we diminish life. That’s the path away from abundance, away from life. Death isn’t punishment but the ultimate consequence of not understanding the full goodness of all creation, especially ourselves and each other.

Enter the serpent.

Poor snakes get a bad rap, but the metaphor of insecurity silently slithering and striking is apt.

“Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any fruit in the garden?’” the serpent asks, framing God as a withholder. Eve unconsciously grasps onto this lie. She correctly tells the serpent that God allows them to eat from other trees, but adds a new prohibition: now, she and Adam can’t even touch the forbidden tree.

Subtly, the serpent sows seeds of doubt and distrust. God – who has given Adam and Eve all good things – is becoming a rival. The serpent tells them that eating from the tree will make them like God, even though they are already made in God’s image.

Instead of becoming more like God, Adam and Eve are poisoned by judgmentalism. They forget the divinity of their natural state and forever feel the need to grasp for it, to prove themselves.

Adam and Eve’s perception of God sours; they fear, resent, and hide from God. When God finds them and asks for an explanation, a round of accusation ensues. Eve blames the serpent; Adam blames Eve and ultimately God for their disobedience.

The Olive

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The perception of being punished is a metaphor for the misery we inflict when we get caught up in insecurity, jealousy, and rivalry.

Our natural creative and nurturing vocations become tinged with pain from living in a world in which we must prove ourselves, not acknowledging everyone’s unconditional worth. The ground will no longer gently yield to Adam; he must toil. Childbearing will be painful for Eve. These aren’t literal punishments, but Genesis insightfully depicts these natural hardships as part of the aftermath of living out of harmony with our Source and our truest selves.

What the authors of Genesis perceived as expulsion from God was human failure to recognize the divinity within ourselves and one another. God’s spirit permeates in the world, but we fail to recognize it, blinded by insecurity, jealousy, and the urge to grasp our desires.

This happens to Cain.

Cain perceives that God has no regard for his offering, but now that distrust has crept into the picture, we can’t trust Cain’s perception. He rivals Abel for God’s approval, but in killing his brother, he loses the approval he desires.

Where other ancient origin stories blame the victim and hail the conqueror, God condemns Cain’s violence. Cain suffers consequences – expulsion and further estrangement from the land – but God still loves and protects him.

Cain’s son builds the first city, conveying that civilizations are built at the expense of the innocent.

Our world is full of injustice because of insecurity, jealousy, and rivalry that lead to violence. When taken as allegory, not history, Genesis masterfully depicts cycles of violence in all their pettiness and gravity.

Through it all, though we might perceive God as against us, God is with and for us. Our misjudgment obscures how loved we are. God knows that buried under our deception of ourselves and each other, we’re still created very good. And we live into our goodness as we come to know God as Love and learn to love ourselves and each other.

The Bible is the story of humanity figuring that out.