Ever get caught with your hand in the cookie jar? Can you remember that moment when you new that you were caught ‘red-handed?’ I’ll never forget an incident at my great aunt’s home. I had just sampled a chocolate drop from her candy jar without asking. Swallowing the sweet candy made me choke, and the cough brought my aunt into the room. There we were – the open candy jar, my great aunt, and me with my telltale cough.
How about you? Were you caught ‘red-handed?’ Tell-tale chocolate or crumbs on your face? And what was your first reaction to being caught? I wanted to hide, but instead my mind began to serve up excuses and explanations. Oh, I had a large inventory of useful responses.
“I didn’t mean to do it!”
“She told me to do it.”
“I didn’t see anything wrong with having a taste.”
“I’ll make up for it.”
Sound familiar? Since that time, I’ve learned just how much like my father, Adam, I am. We share not only an unbroken connection through our DNA but also an unbroken record of selfishness, pride, and desire for power. In short, like Adam and Eve, we want to have it our way:
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
she took from its fruit and ate;
and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. Genesis 3: 6-7
Adam and Eve hid in the garden among all the flowers and trees that God had provided to be freely enjoyed. Indeed, they had walked in the garden with their Creator, and now they recognized the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). God came this time, not for another pleasant time of fellowship with His image bearers, but to begin the restoration process as a righteous Judge, beginning with the discipline and instruction that was now needed as a result of the first human disobedience.
It is instructive for me to consider how “my father, Adam” responded when his Father asked that penetrating question, “Where are you, Adam?” Adam knew everything had changed. He felt exposed, naked, shameful, fearful– all new feelings. But, he also chose to “do it his way” to solve the problem. He would cover himself and his wife with green leaves stitched together; and, they would hide.
God had a different solution. His answer to our depravity involves a costlier and messier extraction from His creation than detaching a few green leaves. Instead, animals must bleed and die, serve as a sacrifice for sin, and foreshadow the ultimate sacrifice, the human sacrifice of God's only Son, Jesus Christ.
Here we have not only the first instance of sin, but the first instance of humans wanting to solve the problem by “doing it our way.” Indeed, the biblical account of human history and recorded history since the first century church is a story of fallen mankind, caught repeatedly with a hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. But rather than owning up and seeking to restore fellowship with their Creator, humans have sought to follow Adam’s example–“doing it our way.” Green leaves instead of red blood spilt in order to provide the costly atonement for sin.
Today, there are many worthwhile projects in our neighborhoods that serve our fellow man and benefit the environment. But, I wonder if, like Adam, we have the cart before the horse. What good deeds are we doing that are like “stitching green leaves together” when all the while, we need to respond to God’s question, “Where are you?” If we are really hiding behind the flowers and trees of the Earth, even through acts of “creation care”, shouldn’t we come out of hiding, turn from our wicked ways, and accept the reconciliation of Christ, purchased with His blood on the cross.
I’ve insisted that creation care need not be a distraction for Christians who are called to live out the Great Commission, God’s pursuit of lost souls headed for eternity apart from God. See "Christians and Creation Care." But, knowing how I respond to being frequently caught “red-handed” in sin, I wonder if there is a proper order we must follow as those who are concerned about stewardship of God’s creation. Perhaps we should “stop on red, before going on green.” At least, this seems to be God’s plan in Scripture. What do you think? Can you think of other instances in the Bible in which human ingenuity and “doing it our way” was repulsive to God? Stay tuned, and feel free to respond with your insights.