Where Are You? Part 2

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Genesis 3:7-15

From the model God provides in the garden of Eden, we can gain some valuable insights about how to communicate the message of God’s love for all people.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!

You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:7-15, niv

In the first part of this message we learned what communication really is. Communication by its very nature is not about simply delivering information but about establishing or restoring relationships between persons. Most of us have a wrong mental model of what it means to communicate. We think of it in what could be called the “transportation model” of communication. What is communication? We imagine it as an effort to deliver information – say from me to you. I have this message and I want to pass it on to you, like delivering the freight. So I take the truck and back it up and dump the information on my target audience. The transportation model sees communication as linear, moving in a straight line from start to finish. It is one directional, from communicator to audience. You’re the audience. I’m the one with the message, and I want to pass it on to you. So I write a letter or a book, I make a speech, I film a commercial or a television program, and thus I deliver the message to you. That is the freight model of communication. You just transfer your information to the audience.

Some communication does seem to be like that. But that isn’t what real communication is all about. It’s not communication the way God intended it to be. What God intended communication to be is shown here in the way he approaches Adam and Eve. It’s not one directional. It’s not linear. It’s not a monologue. It’s not simply delivering a message. What it really is is relational. Real communication always aims to restore intimacy. God seeks to bridge the void that has arisen between him and his children. All of his questions are God’s way of opening himself up to Adam and asking Adam to be honest in return. What God is really saying is, “What have you done, Adam? Where are you? What’s happened? Speak to me. Tell me. Confess to me. Return to me.”

I should have known what’s really at the bottom of communication just by looking at the word. I happen to love words, and I especially love the origins of words and the way they reveal something of what the word is intended to convey. So where does the word communication come from? It comes from the Latin root communio. What is it related to? It’s related to words like common, community, communion. This is what God is seeking when he comes and speaks to Adam and Eve after their sin – communion. He wants fellowship and intimacy to be restored between them.

But they refuse to answer him honestly. “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid . . . The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit.” Adam and Eve do respond in a sense, but they don’t answer his questions. Instead, they try to evade him. They shift the blame. They make excuses. They point the finger, almost literally. There is a brilliant medieval painting, a masterpiece that depicts the exact moment when God is confronting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, attempting to restore communication with them. Adam is standing there pointing his finger at Eve, and Eve is standing over here pointing her finger at the serpent, and the serpent, having no fingers to point at anyone, is just coiled around the tree with the apple in its mouth. “Adam, where are you? What have you done?” But Adam refuses to give an honest answer. He forfeits the opportunity to repent and be brought back into relationship with the Lord God.

HOW TO COMMUNICATE

There are some lessons here not only about what communication is but about how we should go about doing it. Let me suggest three or four principles that are illustrated here by the way God communicates with Adam and Eve. First of all, in order to communicate we need words. Language is a miracle, and the most important things we have to say require words to say them – including, most importantly of all, the gospel itself.

Sometimes we have a tendency to disparage words, as though it’s somehow better or “higher” to communicate without them. We admire the kind of relationship people have who are so closely in tune that they don’t need to talk to each other, they know each other so well. But I suggest that most of the time that’s just not true. Obviously there is such a thing as non-verbal communication, of course, but even that requires words. At the very least we have to put into words in our own minds the meaning of the message that is being sent to us via gestures or expressions. Verbal communication is not an inferior form of communicating. On the contrary, language is among God’s most precious gifts to us because words are what most clearly convey his truth to us. And we can use them to speak the truth to one another as well.

Second, in our attempts to communicate we must approach one another with respect. We must recognize the dignity and worth of our fellow human beings as we interact with them. How respectful God is in addressing Adam and Eve. I think of a line of the fine Christian novelist Frederich Buechner: “God rarely ravishes; he usually woos.” Notice how he approached Adam and Eve! God came with a question, to engage them and invite their response. God didn’t berate them, chide them, scold them. He did not force them to answer him. He didn’t coerce them or twist their arms to make them fall in line.

It strikes me how often in the Bible God begins to speak with a person who is opposing him by asking a question. You see it throughout the Scriptures. For example, to Cain – “Cain, where is your brother? What have you done to him?” To Job – “Who is this that darkens counsel by using words without knowledge?” To Jonah – “Do you do well to be angry?” To Peter – “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” To Saul – “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” When you begin with a question, you’re opening a dialogue and inviting a thoughtful response.

Yes, “we’ve a story to tell to the nations.” But we also need to listen with respect to other peoples’ stories and take them seriously. I love what Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “We have renounced underhanded ways of communicating the gospel, instead, we appeal openly to each person’s conscience” (see 2 Cor. 4:2). That’s how we have to go about it.

There are plenty of people who communicate in unworthy ways, in manipulative or coercive ways. But as Christians we renounce all such methods of communication. We seek to proclaim the gospel respectfully and engagingly. We want to begin a conversation with people and be ready to listen as well as preach.

Third, our communication must be patient and persistent. We have to stick to it because it’s clear that we so often fail in our attempts at it. As in one sense God himself failed here, initially at least, in trying to communicate with Adam and Eve. They didn’t respond the way they should have responded. But God refused to give up the effort to get through to them. “All day long,” the Lord said through his prophet Isaiah, “I have held out my hands to a disobedient and rebellious people.”

Most of the time when we seek to communicate it isn’t going to work. It could be our fault, it could be our audience’s fault. It may be simple misunderstanding. It may be some consequence of the Fall that makes people willfully blind and causes them to reject, twist or distort the truth. But we have to keep at it. We can’t give up. Remember how persistent God is in his attempts to speak to us.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – as we communicate, we offer hope. This hope is based on God’s own promise. God has the last word in the story of Genesis 3. In this chapter God speaks the gospel for the very first time, and he does so to the enemy himself: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

A cryptic promise as originally spoken, but one that we’ve come to understand because we know who the “offspring” of the woman is. We’ve heard the rest of the story. We’ve seen how the woman’s offspring came in the fulness of time. We watched him grow in his strength to resist the attacks of the devil. We saw him renounce the path of earthly glory and power. We watched him as he set his face to go to Jerusalem, where he endured the cross, despising the shame, and rose victorious over death and hell and the devil himself. The woman’s offspring has crushed our enemy underfoot, and some day that victory will be apparent to all.

Because of this history we too have a message of hope. The prophecy is spoken to the enemy. God engages Satan directly and pronounces his doom. But this promise is shared with us as God invites us to come into his Son and experience the life and power, the salvation and hope that come from being united to Christ through faith.

This is the powerful truth that we long for everyone to hear and to know, to experience. Do you know it yourself? Where are you right now? Are you hiding from God? Do you belong to Christ? Are you in him? Those fateful words “take and eat” once spelled doom for our first parents Adam and Eve. But now in communion with Jesus Christ they have become a wonderful invitation to eternal life.