The text for this final sermon in our Relationships by God’s Design series was Genesis 2:18-3:13 (link). The primary point of looking at this passage was to acknowledge that the world is not as it should be and we are not has we should be. There was an original design (and it was good), but the designs of God were disturbed, the image of God became distorted, the pinnacle of God’s masterpiece became depraved (that is, twisted), and the desires of every human heart became disordered, pursuing the wrong things. All of this is not good.
Thankfully, the Father sent the Son to redeem and restore—to re-establish His Reign, His intentions, His design. Through Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, he inaugurated something new, a new creation, in which it is possible to realize God’s design, God’s intentions, where his Kingdom can come near and be “at hand.” This kingdom is inaugurated, but not fully consummated. It has already begun, but has not yet reached culmination. Redemption is available, but full restoration is yet to be realized.
Theologians often think of these as stages of salvation history and describe them as creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. In the terms of this present sermon series, we could think of it as design, disruption, redemption, redesign.
Until Christ returns and His Reign comes in its fullness, we live in between. This has huge implications.
IMPLICATION #1 — God will come find us. We might as well start with the good news: in the midst of shame and condemnation and brokenness, God will come find us. That’s part of the point of v. 9 in Genesis 3—God is after us; i.e., he’s asking “Where are you?” And, by implication, if you find yourself in one of these places that’s outside God’s design for relationships (cohabitation, lust, divorce, anything else) and find yourself in a place of shame and self-condemnation just like Adam and Eve, please know that God is asking for you. He is asking, “Where are you? Where are you?” Even when we make terrible decisions that drive us further from his design, God keeps pursuing. Even when we want to hide, God keeps pursuing.
IMPLICATION #2 — We get to participate in God’s redemptive plans. Just as God is on this great redemption mission, he co-opts us to be a part of it, to be “ministers of reconciliation.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) We are blessed to be a blessing. That’s part of the miracle of the Gospel: the Gospel is the good news that the holy, majestic God of the Universe offers us undeserved mercy and grace, and by some further miracle, then commissions us into the ongoing-coming-to-fulfillment of his Kingdom. And since the world is not as it should be and people are not as they should be, you should expect almost every moment of your life to present the possibility for you to be a minister of reconciliation, somebody who contributes to the great cosmic redemption (In the sermon, I also pointed to Isaiah 58:12)
IMPLICATION #3 — We need a realistic view of marriage. When a man and a woman become one flesh, they will not be magically whisked into the Garden of Eden to enjoy the original design described in Genesis 2. Rather, they have to deal, by God’s grace, with the realities of Genesis 3. In other words, they need to embrace that they are two flawed human beings, encountering one another in a fallen world. In order to navigate this well, they will need what was stressed in the first sermon of this series: identity in Christ (see here & here). We need the grace of God—for ourselves, for each other, for our union. Otherwise, our Fallenness might eat us alive.
IMPLICATION #4 — We need to come to grips with impossibility of fully realizing the design in this life. Some people want to say that everything is possible with God and as much as I believe that, I also want to hold that in tension with the reality that the Kingdom has not fully come. Consequently, even with the best of intentions, things might not work out because we live in a world that is not as it should be. For instance, a couple can do all the right things and still be infertile. Even though we can affirm that procreation is part of God’s design, infertility is part of this Fallen world. In the midst of that brokenness and heartbreak, we need to lean on the grace of God—for comfort in the pain, for courage to choose a different path, for all the things we might need in a world that does not reflect God’s design.
IMPLICATION #5 — We need to careful about how we view our core inclinations. This may be the most important implication for our present subject: relationships and human sexuality. That said, I’m going to take a few paragraphs to explain this one:
Based on Genesis 3, Christians affirm that a core aspect of our depravity is that we are prone for our loves to be directed toward the wrong things. Augustine called these “disordered loves.” Similarly, the great spiritual master, Ignatius of Loyola, spoke often of “disordered attachments”—that we have an inherent drive to attach ourselves to things other than God. The prophet Jeremiah said it this way: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
This leads to a broad theological principle that Christians affirm; namely, our internal desires do not justify outward behavior. Since we affirm that our hearts & desires are “desperately sick” and inherently “disordered,” no follower of Jesus would affirm the idea that “as long as a desire is unchosen, it is therefore okay to act upon.” We all have many feelings or inclinations that feel unchosen and yet, are prohibited by God—whether they be anger, greed, or lust. This has immediate implications for some arguments made in favor of same-sex marriage. Some might say, “why would God make me this way only to deny me the fulfillment of desire?” Although I have great empathy for the person with homoerotic feelings, I don’t agree with the premise behind this argument. Instead of “God made me this way,” Christians affirm that nothin is as it should be. We have to do some careful discernment on gifts from God and products of the curse.
So no, on the whole, we do not affirm every internal inclination. We do not affirm that “as long as a desire is unchosen, it is therefore okay to act upon.” Yet, the prevailing argument in Western culture is that certain inclinations, especially regarding sexuality, should be indulged. Consequently, Christians are mocked for saving sex for marriage. Consequently, the objectification of women is widely embraced as normal. Consequently, divorce is promoted based simply on changing feelings. And people like Wesley Hill are derided for ‘repressing’ their sexual inclination in favor of a historic Christian view of marriage.
As Christians, we live in a counter-cultural way. We believe that the world is not as God designed or intends. Things are not as they should be. We are not as we should be. Consequently, we affirm that we need Christ. We need him to straighten us where we are twisted and in the process, orient us toward the Kingdom. In fact, that’s what God does to us every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. AND, that’s what we do every week in worship as we confess to going astray, accept God’s grace anew, seek God’s direction through the Word, and have our souls centered at the Table. Our hearts are desperately sick and need continual reorientation toward the Kingdom.
Questions for Further Reflection
Question #1 — What did you hear in the text and in the sermon? Say out loud what you heard. What main points did Drew make?
Question #2 — Which implications (of the five stirred the most in you—positive or negative? What else do you need to talk about or think through?
Question #3 — What action steps is God calling you to take based on this text and this sermon?
Question #4 — What else do you need to absorb so that it becomes a permanent part of your theological framework? (I ask this because I find so many people have an inadequate view of the very things named in this sermon and in the blog)