Clearly shalom does not prevail in the world today. That brings us to the portion of the biblical narrative that follows Genesis 2. Genesis 3 tells us how shalom was lost. A serpent engaged Eve in conversation, asking her if God really said that she may not eat from any tree in the garden (knowing full well that only one tree had been prohibited.) By framing the question this way, the serpent directed Eve’s attention to what had been denied her versus the amazing richness that had been provided. Furthermore, the serpent suggested a great benefit was being denied Adam and Eve by the prohibition. If they would eat the fruit, they would “… be like God, knowing good and evil.” Adam and Eve ate the fruit. In doing so, they disobeyed God. They distrusted and minimized God. They sought to be more than they were intended to be, but ended up becoming far less. They were left in an existential predicament. With their eyes opened, they realized that eating of the tree did not elevate them to God’s status. They also realized they could not go back to what they were before. How could they go back into God’s presence knowing they had disobeyed? So what did they do? They hid.
Chapter 2 of Genesis ends saying that the man and woman were naked and they were not ashamed. There was total intimacy and transparency in their relationship. After disobeying God, they were guilty and ashamed. Guilt comes from violating a moral precept. Shame comes when our actions do not match up to the image we have of ourselves. Adam and Eve were not only guilty; they were also cut off from God, the source of their identity. They were broken eikons, unable to accurately reflect God’s image. God appeared on the scene, called them out of their hiding, and inquired of Adam what had happened. Adam blamed it on Eve. When Eve was confronted she blamed it on the serpent. Had God asked the serpent, the serpent no doubt would have blamed it on God, since God had created the serpent. Denial and diversion became the responses to our human existential dilemma.
God explained to Adam and Eve the consequences of their actions:
God made garments for them and then expelled them from the Garden of Eden.
Peace of mind was lost. Where harmonious relationships had once existed, denial, discord, and deceit would now dominate. The pronouncement to Eve revealed that endless power struggles would ensue within marriage, the most intimate of relationships. While birth should be the most joyous outcome of this most intimate of relationships, it would now be accompanied by significant pain and suffering. As revealed to Adam, work would cease to be a joyous expression of dominion on God’s behalf and become a toilsome wearying struggle. Injustice would emerge and community would be fractured as sin deluded behavior became the norm.
This pronouncement makes clear that the exalted and glorious call to have dominion over the earth has been reduced to a laborious toilsome battle for survival. Creation appears to have been altered in some way that contributed to this curse (see Romans 8:18-25), but clearly the fracture of authentic community due to jealousy, greed, hate, oppression and ultimately murder and war, are consequences as well. On top of all this, beings meant for eternal community with God would now face the annihilation of death, as well as the loss of meaning and purpose brought by death.
In short, the eikons rebelled and shalom was horribly marred. According to the biblical narrative, this is the world we live in today. So what is humanity’s response? What is God’s response?