So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them. God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall die.”
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. — Genesis 1:27, 29; 2:16-17; 3:7
I’d like to take you on a time journey back to the days when we lived in peace and harmony with all the animals, in a place that produced enough food for all. Now I’d like you to scan this world of ours mentally and assess the damage we have done to the animals, plants, oceans, rivers and to one another. What on earth went wrong? Why are we so far from living in an ideal society?
According to Genesis, God told Adam and Eve, everything was theirs to taste, touch and eat, except the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Parents are aware of the times they tell their offspring not to touch things. “Don’t touch the iron — it’s hot and you will be burned.” “Don’t play with matches, you could cause a fire.” “Don’t run across the road without making sure it is safe to do so.” And just how many times do we discover these same offspring do exactly what they have been told not to do.
To our children we spell out the consequences of wrong actions, as did God in this story of the Creation myth. God did not need to “see” Adam and Eve become ashamed of their bodies and cover them with fig-leaf loin cloths, for God was already aware of their actions. As parents we do not need to have eyes in the back of our heads to discover what our children have been up to. Slowly but surely the truth comes out in time, and sometimes the consequences are horrific. Children do run across busy roads and are struck by cars becoming injured, killed or left with a lifetime trauma caused by the incident.
Genesis relates that Adam and Eve, as a consequence of their actions, were shut out of Eden, and their return was barred. No matter how much they wished they could turn back time, or how genuinely sorry they were for their actions, it was too late, the damage had been done.
The story we read in Genesis is the Judaic version of the Creation story. Across all nations, all countries and all periods of time we find interpretations of the process of creation. We humans need to know the answers to questions. Young children are always asking “Why?” of adults around them. As adults, from prehistoric times we have asked questions about the birth of our world, about the solar system, and the reason for the changing seasons. We have sought to know the secrets of tidal changes, volcanoes and other world phenomena. We have prayed to a variety of gods, and offered sacrifices on our altars to appease the gods in whom we believed. We may have gained knowledge, but in many instances we have lost our closeness to our creator.
Babies at about the age of nine months become acutely aware of the “us and them” situations. They are comfortable within their family atmosphere, but when strangers intrude they become frightened. They have begun to develop a sense of self. As they grow, and in fact throughout their lives, that sense of self becomes more developed, until at times it manifests as selfishness. Through adolescence young people constantly challenge the barriers parents and society place before them, and when these boundaries are crossed, these young people discover the consequences of their words and actions. At work, in team competitions, when the results are disputed, they fly off the handle.
Our civilizations have progressed over many tens of thousands of years. We are no longer innocent men and women who are able to return to Eden for we have changed so much from the souls God created that we no longer fit into that place. We have degraded this planet, littered space with junk, destroyed many species of bird and animal. We no longer know what it is to walk each evening with God. We may proudly say “Here am I, this is me,” but until we reconnect with the God of love, we are but shadows of the souls that we were created. We need, as did Jesus, to spend time each and every day reunited with God.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.