June 2, 2020

Cursing the Fall

Today’s guest blogger is Jeremy Berg. Thanks, Jeremy!

This reflection from last spring seems a timely word to all who are struggling to make sense of the recent Haiti disaster. May we send our curses in the right direction.

I was doing the annual spring yard clean-up this past spring.  My wife had done most of the raking and left them in neat piles for me to come behind and bag up.  I’m a manly man, so I didn’t think I needed to wear work gloves to pick up a few leaves.  What I didn’t expect, as I thoughtlessly grabbed handfuls of leaves to stuff into the bags, was that she had also pruned the rose bush nearby and buried the thorny branches in the same pile of leaves.

Ouch!!!

As the thorn punctured my hand I couldn’t resist cursing the ground under my breath.  Before I could feel guilty for my foul choice of words, I was immediately reciting scripture in my head.  Yes, my careless yard work incident had suddenly transported me into a moment of deep theological reflection.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field” (Gen 3:17-18).

As I continued to bag leaves — this time more cautiously and using a rake rather than bare hands — I made the following two observations:

1. The lingering, deep-seated effects of that primordial Fall are ever before us. In a culture that all too often entertains utopian visions of human progress, we Christians need to remind the world that, apart from the grace of God and the redemption project begun at Calvary and to be finished at Christ’s return, we are still working in a broken world full of painful thorns and thistles.  Apart from divine rescue, the odds are stacked against us.

2. We need to curse in the right direction. When people encounter suffering in this life they often curse in two wrong directions.  Many well-meaning Christians who have, I believe, a mistaken view of God’s sovereignty, ultimately end up blaming God for much of the pain and suffering in the world.  If God controls EVERYTHING, they reason, then God is responsible for every circumstance — whether good or evil.  Other people, especially those who leave God out of the picture, are left only to blame human beings for every unfortunate situation.  While God is responsible at times and human beings at other times, there are many circumstances where we just need to curse the fallen world we have inherited. (Not to mention Satan and the spiritual powers of evil.)  We are still living outside of Eden.

  • When cancer steals away life in its prime, curse the Fall.
  • When earthquakes claim entire cities, curse the Fall.
  • When one loses a child in childbirth, curse the Fall.

Oh, how the reputation of God has been twisted by well-meaning people who try to find God’s mysterious providence behind so many natural evils that are so utterly contradictory to the character of God.  And, oh, how many people’s lives have been ruined by overbearing burdens of self-imposed guilt and self-loathing for things outside of their own control.

So, the next time you find yourself wrestling against nature in the garden, let us curse the Fall and then turn our hearts and hopes quickly toward heaven remembering that God is a gardener, too.  For although “all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom 8:22), we know that since that first Easter morning God has been laboring beside us as “the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Rom 8:21).

So, let us not curse God for the thorns and thistles.  But let’s keep cutting them down, bagging them up and hauling them away to the nearest landfill!

Comments

  1. I think a big part of the problem is that so few people will think to curse the Fall because they either don’t believe or don’t understand it. That Adam and Eve’s wrong decision could have such immense consequences for every human being is, well, kind of hard to comprehend – especially for the average person who has only a very rudimentary understanding of it.

    And I must echo the others in saying that “cursing in the right direction” is a very useful and succinct way to phrase such a very crucial concept! I think I’ll add that to my sayings, if I may =)

  2. Amen, Jeremy. Great post, with nice spiritual depth.

    It is during the times of thorns and thistles that I try to remind myself of Jesus Christ’s example. Did he curse God for being nailed to the cross? No. He realized that it was not God, but the Fall of man, that did him in. During times of thorns and thistles, we need to remind ourselves of that, that it was the Fall that led man to treat the Son of God like the vile criminals he was crucified between.

    I don’t think it was God’s intent that any of us should suffer to the extent that many of us suffer. Blame it on the Fall.

  3. Blaming it on the fall also helps me be more gentle on my fellow sinners. After all, we’re in the same dilemma, and though my sins may be better hidden or more respectable, we are all stumbling through this barren land together.

  4. While reading about the bourgeois religion of the enlightenment, i see a lot of similarities with current, pragmatic evangelicalism. The bourgeois wanted a religion free of any intervention by God or interference by original sin and death on their business plans. It’s easy to see similar demands from affluent classes today for a religion which is silent on sin and suffering while emphasizing business-like, calculated methods for greater prosperity and profit. Peace is made with death, because angst distracts the business mind from greater progress. The parable of the rich young ruler, who is called to abandon his wealth, sounds absolutely unpatriotic. As much as I hate how many preach about end-times, I think preaching on end times is in danger, too, because it does not paint a rosie picture for the future of Wall Street’s irrational exuberance and may even lead some driven businessmen to leave the American Dream for the Great Commission.

    • Also a nice comment. I’m leading an adult Sunday school class through the gospels of Mark and Matthew (at the same time…that’s quite the challenge!) and we’re in Matthew 10 right now. All one has to do is read how Jesus commissioned his disciples, what he told them to bring with them, and what they would run into, to get a sense that ministry and mission is NOT about prosperity, nor will it be all rosy. I don’t see much “business sense” in what Jesus tells the twelve in Matthew 10.

      • Yes, Jesus’ kingdom teachings are terribly impractical and make little “business sense.” I just came across a quote in “Organic Church” by Neil Cole by John Belushi from the film “Animal House” that is quite fitting:

        “Nothing is impossible for the man who will not listen to reason.”

        Or, Hauwerwas and Willimon:

        “Whenever a people are bound together in loyalty to a story that includes something as strange as the Sermon on the Mount, we are put at odds with the world.” – Resident Aliens, 94

        • LOL! Both of those are great quotes that contain deep truth, are they not? Thanks for sharing them, Jeremy.