This past Sunday Night, I preached from Genesis 3:1-7 and addressed the idea of our having an active enemy. (For those of you with insomnia, audio is here.) However, in prepping for that sermon, I happened to read the rest of the chapter. You know, in the interest of context.
Getting to the end of the chapter, something became clearer to me than it has been before. Let me walk you to that point:
Often, especially here on this blog, we lament the current state of affairs. We have fussed and fumed across the miles about:
1. The inability of Southern Baptists to get along with each other. You want to narrow down our comment stream into a short burst? That’s it. We do not get along, and we do not get along about why we do not get along. We argue theology. We argue sports. We argue mixed-martial-arts. (Admittedly, the first time I read that post I misread it as mixed-marital-arts and then just could not take any of it seriously.) And we argue. Who was doing this and why? Why not this, why that, and so on, and so forth.
We argue, and then along comes someone who says “Can we not make this easier?”
2. We have fumed about the state of affairs in this nation. We would all like a welcoming country whereby people may legally come in however they please, buy guns but have no violence, get healthcare that is affordable and effective and accessible but not forced by anyone, pay appropriate but not too high taxes, get a quality education that offends no one and is cheap, vote intelligently but only once per election, and all speak English while retaining their cultural heritage. We want racial harmony without apologies, gender equality without strife and with differing views on certain issues, and religious tolerance without having to allow the other guy to say anything.
And on top of that,”We want this done the easy way!”
3. We have fussed about our churches. We want instant disciples (just add water!) We want automatic long-term marriages. We want perfect kids with their own personalities and no resentments. We want deacons that know how to serve, pastors that know how to serve, and teachers that know how to teach. We want Vacation Bible School to feel like a vacation and mission trips that end with a glorious “Mission Accomplished!” sentiment.
After all,”That should be easy!”
Except expecting easy is the exact opposite of what we find in the Word of God. Take your Bible and look at Genesis 3:17-19. Part of the impact of sin is that life stopped being easy. We live in a cursed land. Things are not so easy as they should be.
Yet we seem to want them that way. We want a Sunday School program that disciples and evangelizes and takes 5 minutes to prepare. We want sermons that flow from our mouths without passing through our hearts.
We want to put up a sign that says “Bible gathering at the coffee shop” and see those who are far from God simply flock in. We want the old ladies to love us and the young men to respect us. We want to tell the kids who shout racial slurs in the middle of our outreach times to hear the Gospel and our love for them and see them change instantly from that.
We want it easy.
Yet whatever else we got from Adam, we definitely received this: the Land of the Curse. The earth beneath our feet is cursed. Not in that funky sci-fi movie manner, but in a very real way. Nothing comes easy that should come easy.
Start with the basics:
1. Food does not come easily from the ground. Believe me. I pastor farmers and many of them will tell you that 30 years of agribusiness and science and GMO and whatever else, and plants do not grow as well as they did 30 years ago. True, some of them will produce better if they grow, but getting them to grow? Harder than ever. That’s in just 30 years.
And then you throw modern economics and modern architecture on top of it, and food is harder to come by. Take the news from Louisiana last week: a grocery store chain was cited by the government for selling milk too cheaply at $2.99 a gallon. That’s right. I remember my parents’ sighs when they had to start paying $1.99 a gallon. Even those of you who do not directly raise a crop put more sweat out for less food than ever before.
Move up from there:
2. Look at human relationships. Adam and Eve get along. There’s nothing to fight over and no hidden motives to seek. Nothing is hidden between them. Now, consider us. Some of you are reading this, looking for the ulterior hook. You either want to agree and help defend or you are in the mood to pounce. It is harder and harder to build those relationships than it ever has been–and social media hurts at least as much as it helps. I’ll be traveling, Lord willing, with a few other SBCVoices people in a month. I am assuming we’ll get along, but we may not. We do not actually know each other. And the problems consist all the way to husband and wife, parents and children. We see the destruction, and it starts in Eden.
Now, take a stretch with me:
3. Gander over at Matthew 13. Jesus speaks of scattering the seed of the word onto the ground of the world. Then He describes the results. Some fell on good ground and grew. Some fell on bad ground and did not grow. Why is there bad ground? Because of the curse.
Guess what? The Cursed Land extends to the spiritual as well. It is harder to see those seeds grow the farther we get from those days. And it is more and more crucial that we try, because the harvest is coming—and that is not good for those who have not spouted.
So, then, what do we do?
We actually solve this in reverse order:
3. We strive to break the ground up and push hard to get more seed out there. We have one advantage over the farmer: we will not run out of seed as long as we draw breath. Spread the Word. Plant Bibles here, there, and everywhere. Get the seed out there. And meanwhile, many of us need to beat our Baptist swords into plowshares and put more effort into breaking up ground and less effort into slashing each other. You get one hardened piece of metal. What are you using it for?
2. As we draw nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ and see His word planted in our hearts, we also see it planted in other hearts. We will find that, because we trust God, we learn to trust each other. Not because we do not fail but because when we do, both the failure and the one who has been failed fall on God for support. As we see the Word grow and bear fruit, we do less to build barriers between us and others, and we interact more freely together.
1. Now, we cannot make the corn grow in a drought just by reading the Word. Yet we can see this: the more the Word takes root in our hearts, the more we put our effort into plowing the ground instead of fighting, the better we are able to connect with our fellow Believers and the rest of humanity. And as that Word grows, we find our priorities coming more in line with God’s priorities and our work changes. Our spending changes. Our efforts change. And perhaps, though milk is still too high (honestly, are the cows getting paid more? I bet they get the same weight in food they have for years!) the workload eases. Because we have community to share the strain. Because we have more concern that our neighbors eat than that we have 200 channels to choose from.
Where does it start? When we stop fighting about trifles and start plowing the ground, making the opportunity for the seed to grow in our hearts and in the hearts of others.
That will not be easy. What do we expect? We live in the land of the curse. Nothing is easy but going with the curse.
And that cannot be our choice.