Genesis 2: 15-17
President Calvin Coolidge returned home from attending church early one Sunday afternoon. He was asked by his wife what the minister spoke on. “Sin,” Coolidge replied. Wanting to know more, she pressed him for some words of explanation. Being a man of few words (as only you wives can appreciate) Coolidge responded: “I think he was against it.”
As a very small child, Theodore Roosevelt had also experienced a peculiar and memorable fear of church. It was a small incident that, in later years, made an amusing anecdote of the kind every Roosevelt loved to tell. But for him at the time it was no joke and should not be discounted. Mittie had found he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside if alone and so she pressed him to tell her why. He was terrified, she discovered, of something called the “zeal.” It was crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance, she read him those particular passages containing the word “zeal” until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from the Book of John, chapter 2, verse 17: “And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”
Peter writes, Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Perhaps we better understand sin, when we discover where sin came from. The origin of sin gives us a clue as to what sin is and how we may overcome it.
The Sunday School teacher asked her class: “What are sins of omission? After some thought one little fellow said: “They’re the sins we should have committed but didn’t get around to.” The new minister had just moved into town. It was late at night when his wife remembered that their dog, very aptly named Trouble” had not been taken out yet. Since it was late and most of the neighbors were asleep, she just slipped on her robe, put the dog on a leash, and stepped out the back door. Unfortunately the leash slipped out of her hand and the dog took off to explore the new territory. She ran around the house hoping to see which direction he had gone. Just then a police car was passing by and stopped to see if she needed help. “No thank you,” she said, “I’m just out here looking for trouble.”
Someone asked, “What is your sermon about this Sunday?” I said, “It is entitled, ‘Where did sin come from?’” “I know that, from Adam and Eve,” said he. “You really need to hear this sermon,” said I.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” In Genesis 3 the story tells us that the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, `You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 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. “Honey, what is for dinner tonight?” “Sin.” Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 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.”
This is not the origin of sin, it is a story about the introduction of sin into the lives of humanity. What some groups mistakenly call “original sin.” A term used to denote the effect of Adam’s sin upon the moral life of his descendants.
The fall of man is not the beginning of sin.
The Fall of humanity does reveal several things to us that are important.
Sin was already present in the world by the time that God creates Adam.
God’s gift to Adam and Eve is the gift of choice. The downside to the gift of choice is that God will not stop us from choosing to sin. The story reveals that sin is not the keeping of laws or a set of rules.
The sinfulness of sin lies in the fact that it is against God, even when the wrong we do is to others or ourselves. The being and law of God are perfectly harmonious, for “God is love.” The sum of all the commandments likewise is love; sin in its nature is egotism and selfishness. Self is put in the place of God. Selfishness is at the bottom of all disobedience, and it becomes hostility to God when it collides with His law.
A man in a former church was arrested and charged with embezzling at the bank he worked for. For the courts, I wrote a character reference letter. In the letter to the judge I wrote, “None of us understand why this happened, it is so out of character for George.” The judge read that part of my letter aloud and asked, “Why did you steal from the bank?” “I can tell you,” the judge said, “you wanted to profit from your actions.”
Sin is not about breaking rules, but breaking God’s heart. Sin is an offense against the very nature and character of God. Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Sin is actually a contradiction to the holiness of God, whose image mankind bears.
Mankind originally fell into sin at the temptation of Satan. As the tempter, he continues to lure people into sin. God is not the author of sin, but His plan for world redemption does include His dealing with the reality of sin.
Ezekiel tells us of Satan, You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. “`In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.
The Rabbis of ancient history composed an imaginary look at heaven to convey the extent of God’s love. The drama unfolds when the Hebrew people were being pursued by the Egyptian army. The angels were perched on heaven’s edge watching the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. When the waters came crashing in on the Egyptians, the angelic host shouted and cheered in victory. God stopped the jubilant celebration with a wave of His hand. With tears in His eyes, God rebuked the angels for their perspective on this tragedy. He said, “The very work of my hands has been destroyed and you would cheer?” God’s love is extended to all men, even those who position themselves as enemies of His kingdom. This is most evident in Jesus’ request of forgiveness for those who nailed Him to the cross.