I grew up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church and one of the lessons I was taught there was that Jesus had to die a painful death on the cross to save us from our sinfulness, which started with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. I absorbed that lesson so well that, as a young adult, God was like a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. Soon I left the church and began a long journey of trying to resolve this horrible vision of God, a capricious, vengeful God, into something that I could live with and believe in. When I look back on this search, I can see God’s footprints everywhere—in putting me in that church and then leading me through much investigation of other religions and of the saints of the church to my purpose as a spiritual director and a writer. Everything I write about is from this point of view: How do I, how do we, live this life in Christ? Meanwhile I did give my life to Christ and my faith has continued to grow and deepen. Since I gave my life to Christ in the early 1980’s, I have come to understand that there is another, even bigger reason that Jesus came to earth, and it has nothing to do with our sins. It has to do with our humanity.
Let’s start here: One thing I understand about God is that He created the earth with its thousands of species of plants and animals, all designed to live in an interdependent system in which every created thing, be it plant or animal, has enough food for itself and helps provide sustenance for other creatures and plants as well. The God who was able to design so many, many creatures and plants in such beautiful detail could not have created us human beings without knowing that we would screw up and not obey His laws when it suited us. He did not design us to be perfect followers of His will. Our God, designer of all creation, all the stars and planets in this universe, had to know that we would not be perfect creatures, always following His desires for us. In the Bible there are references that say that no man is perfect; here are a few of them:
1 John 1:8-10 “if we go around bragging, ‘We have not sin, then we are fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth.”
Romans 3:23 “You see, all have sinned, and all their futile attempts to reach God in His glory fail.”
Isaiah 64:6 “All of us are dirty with sin. All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth.”
Psalm 130: 3 “Lord, if you punished people for all their sins, no one would be left, Lord.
What was true in Biblical times is certainly true as well as today: human beings are unable to perfectly follow His laws and desires for us, even if we have totally dedicated our lives to Him. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden merely showed us all what we would do in God’s presence: we would defy His wishes. Now, God could have chosen to design us to perfectly follow His will, but He didn’t. So, I can’t imagine that He was surprised when they ate the forbidden fruit.
The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites in Exodus, expanded in greater detail in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, so that the Israelites would know how they were to behave in everything they did. But, later, even as they are being led by Moses to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God knew that they won’t be able to follow His laws: “And the Lord said to Moses:
‘You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them’(Deuteronomy 31:16).”
Throughout the prophetic books, the prophets reported the failures of the Israelites to follow God’s laws. The same is true for us today. We have to keep reminding ourselves when we break the commandments to confess our sin to God and to ask for healing again, and again, and again. God knew even before the garden of Eden that we wouldn’t be perfectly obedient followers, because He didn’t create us to be perfect. He created us with the potential of following His laws as best we could, when we have given over our lives to Him and are seeking to follow Him in everything that we do. He knew exactly what trouble we would get into. And He keeps calling us to His side, to lean on Him in order to attain any kind of perfection. He allows us to come willingly, not because He is dragging us over to His side or because we have no choice. He has left it up to us to choose to be His servants, His followers. His plan for us is nothing short of bringing us to the fullness of who He created us to be. All it takes is for us to follow Him more and more over time wherever He would lead us.
Whether we believe in God or are complete atheists, He is still walking along with us always inviting us to hear what He wants us to do, how He wants us to be. And when we wake up to His presence in our lives, and we choose to go along with His plan for us, then we find our lives opening up to all the potential that He designed within us.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest book, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, is now in bookstores and on line. It’s about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I able to admit my failings as I try my best to follow Christ? Do I ignore my failures to God, or do I ask Him to heal me and to restore me to His good graces? How honest am I about my oh, so human ways?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are dedicated to following Christ in all that we do, And may we admit to God, asking for His help, when we fail to do so. May we live in the truth about ourselves.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
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