Letters to Our Dear Children #4
Dear Junia, Charysse, DeAnn and Greg,
I remember a somewhat unhappy incident that occurred in our family a little more than 50 years ago. Our neighbor across the street was in some distress and had asked for my help. Two of my little girls followed me out of the house and I asked the five-year-old to hold onto the two-year-old so that she would not follow me into the street. When I came back across the street a few minutes later I found the five-year-old crying at the top of her lungs while holding tightly to the two-year-old.
Upon due investigation, I discovered an angry look on the face of the two-year-old and large bite marks on the arm of her five-year-old sister (names withheld to avoid lawsuits). Suffering as I do from a theologically prejudiced mind, I drew the immediate conclusion that the fall of Adam and Eve was clearly in evidence here. The two-year-old had resisted her older sister’s loving covenantal restraint against allowing her into the street and had straightway sunk her teeth into her sister’s arm. Sin had struck with a vengeance.
Now I must confess that this was not the first time your mother and I had witnessed such an event in our family. The sad fact is that dealing with such sinful events had become a daily necessity for both of us. The saddest part of the story is that I so frequently had to deal with sin in my own behavior. I had to pray continuously that I would treat my own wife and children with the kind of loving care that should characterize a Godly husband and father. In my own case, that also included praying that I would have this same kind of loving care for the members of my congregation. I had a pastoral obligation to show genuine Christ-like love both in my preaching and in all my relationships to those participating in the life of our church.
In my first three letters, it has been a great delight to major on the love of God so beautifully displayed in the first two chapters of Genesis. To be created in the “image of God” and then to be immediately caught up in Covenant relationships with God is a glorious wonder beyond the reach of all human language. I hope the four of you and all those “eavesdropping” on these letters have an ever deepening sense of the unspeakable beauty set before us in this grand narrative of God’s Creation. There is no way to overstate the sheer grandeur of this event. God’s love for us is so gloriously displayed in these first two chapters of the Bible that we can only stand in awe, gladly offering Him our most profound and humble thanksgiving.
But then, like the crashing crescendos of a Wagnerian tragedy, Adam’s Fall into sin breaks over us. For a two-year-old to bite her sister’s arm is a relatively minor indicator of The Fall but, nevertheless, a real piece of evidence that something is radically amiss. In the “good” and “very good” world that God originally created (Genesis 1:10 and 31), there would have been no such painful conflicts – not now, not ever. The reason for this becomes immediately evident.
The narrative of Genesis 3 reveals a moral disaster of epic proportions. When Eve believed the Serpent’s lie, ate the forbidden fruit, and drew Adam into joining her in that sin, their disobedience to God’s command plunged them and all mankind into The Fall. By their intentional violation of the Law-Word of God, they sinned against Him, broke their covenant with Him and deserved to die for that sin as God had threatened in Genesis 2:17, “…for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.”
This may seem like pretty heavy language for a letter to my children. Forgive me if it is too much, but I write this way only because I do not want to run the serious risk of understating the enormous problem that The Fall into Sin has caused for our family as well as the whole human race. Obviously, one child biting another child’s arm is only a tiny symptom of this dreadful problem, but this small symptom points to that horrible dislocation in all of our hearts which we must call sin.
What happens immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin is absolutely amazing!
Following the narrative to this point, we should expect that Adam and Eve would immediately die. They did not. The threat of death seems to be suspended. The two of them live on while God engages them in conversation.
And what a conversation it is!
The Devil himself (the serpent) is listening as God speaks. God is telling Adam and Eve along with the Devil (paraphrase here) that “The seed of the woman is going to crush your head and you are going to bruise His heel.”
Bible scholars are practically unanimous in regarding God’s words here as a prophecy of the coming Messiah. That is: Messiah, the seed of the woman, will crush Satan’s head, fatally wounding him, while Satan will only be able to bruise the Messiah’s heel, a non-fatal wound.
We should see two amazing things about these words which God speaks to them.
First, God does not immediately strike Adam and Eve dead as He had threatened in chapter 2:17.
Second, God promises Adam and Eve at this very point that He will Redeem them from their sin.
It almost seems like God is rewarding them for their disobedience!!?? Of course, God is not doing that. That would be utterly contrary to His nature. What God is doing here is following through immediately on the love He had promised to give Adam and Eve when He first created them.
God’s great love for Adam and Eve is the whole point of chapters one and two of Scripture. We do not say that often enough. We should never miss an opportunity to remind ourselves of this grandest of grand realities when we think about these first two chapters of the Bible. The intricate balance of all the elements of creation that make life possible for mankind and all living things is a phenomenon of surpassing wonder. It should be abundantly evident to every thinking mind that God loved man with such amazing love, making man the centerpiece of His creation.
This is why God took such immediate and wonderful action to save Mankind from the Serpent’s evil plot to destroy Him.
So much more to say about this great wonder, but this will be enough for today.
With all our love,
Mom and Dad Alexander
The name of Anselm is seldom a part of everyday conversations in our homes. Names like Trump, Cruz, Clinton, and Sanders are far more familiar at this point in history (April 2016). I am, hereby, asking you to indulge me while I make a brief stump speech for my friend, Dr. Anselm.
Living from 1033 to 1109, Anselm made a significant contribution to history and to many who are trying to discover the meaning of life here on earth. He did that by helping us define sin. Dr. Douglas F. Kelly paraphrases Anselm’s definition: “God is of infinite greatness, and therefore, sin against God is infinite, causing offenders to be infinitely guilty.”1
I must confess that when I first encountered this definition, I did not agree with it. How could a little insignificant being like me be guilty of anything like “infinite sin?” But it was difficult for me to just set Anselm aside. Church historians have made a powerful case for his intellect and his Biblical perspective on life. So I began to read his fuller statement about sin, noticing how previous Christian scholars had already been saying much the same thing. Then Anselm wrote his famous book, Cur Deus Homo (Why? The God-Man), in which he includes the above-quoted statement on sin.
Anselm’s powerful logic in this famous book proceeds from his happy recognition that God provided His “only begotten Son” to be the Savior of infinitely guilty sinners. Anselm presents his case most convincingly, demonstrating that only an infinitely holy Jesus, born of a virgin, and living a life of perfect obedience to His Father in Heaven could save such sinners. And He did! Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from our sin. The only reason such a sacrifice could be needed is because we are guilty of infinite sin. What a wonderful Savior we have! – one Who is fully capable of forgiving a two-year-old for biting her sister or forgiving a tyrant who led his nation into a disastrous war!
PERSONAL OBSERVATION: There need to be more names like Anselm’s in our everyday conversations! Political discussions are not going to get it for us. Our need is not for more adequate government provision, higher self-esteem, better tranquilizers, or for some vague idea we call psychological adjustment. Our need is to find a way to deal with our sin, sin defined as “infinite sin because it is against an infinite God.”
NOW I am going to treat you like adults!
I am going to conclude these Reflexions with a challenging quote that can bless your whole life. You will have to study it, though, at least a little bit, in order to get ahold of it. That may be an unusual experience. You are used to mastering computer and cell-phone procedures, but are you really up to Anselm’s theology? Here it is, well worthy of your thoughtful study:
“For what can be understood as being more merciful than that God the Father should say to the sinner who was condemned to eternal torments, and who had nothing wherewith to redeem himself: ‘Take my Only-begotten Son, and offer Him for thyself’; and the Son Himself: ‘Take me, and redeem thyself’? …And what can be more just than that he, to whom is given payment greater than all that is owing to him, should, if this be given in payment of what is owing, remit the whole debt?”2
- Dr. Douglas F. Kelly, Systematic Theology Volume Two, Published in 2014 by Christian Focus Publications Ltd., page 422.
- Ibid., page 423