An Unexpected War

Have you ever been caught in a lie? Even a seemingly harmless lie? You took credit for someone else’s work, and your boss figures out. You told a needy friend that you had too much homework to hang out, and she sees you out with different friends.  You see the Wal-Mart checker miss an item and say nothing, but she notices right after you pay.

You’ve experienced something like that. When you’re caught your stomach drops. You invent a deceitful cover up story, but realize how ridiculous it sounds. So you just wait to see his or her response. In my experience these moments usually end in one of two ways: 1) the offended party explodes in anger. 2) the offended party gives nothing but a cutting look of disdain. In both cases I leave ashamed, wondering if I’ve lost a friend.
The sense of agony we all feel at the smallest betrayals is only be a fraction of the agony that Adam and Eve felt when they betrayed God. Can you imagine their terror? Their shame? They betrayed the creator of the universe. They betrayed their perfectly loving, perfectly satisfying, father.
For most Christians, the story of humanity’s rebellion is overplayed. It’s lost it’s awful mystery. When God enters the garden after the fall, we all know what happens next. Yet, the Biblical author stretches out the narrative, as though he wants us to ask, “What will God do?” He wants us to wonder, as we do after our own betrayals, “Will God become our enemy?”

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:8-13)

It seems that mankind has made an unholy alliance with the serpent against God. The tension rises, as God curses the serpent (the devil) to a meaningless existence. Shall we be cursed with him? Worse than him? Will God wage war against us both?

But God’s curse against the serpent ends with an unexpected a relief… an unexpected war.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

What does this mean? There’s a war between God and the serpent. But there’s also a war between part of mankind and the serpent. God is opening the door to an unexpected war – we need not fight against him; we may fight beside him, against the serpent.

Who would expect this? Once man sinned, he entered war. No one can escape that. After sin we must war against the creator or the evil one. I forget this reality in my daily battles against sin. As the days roll on, I grow exhausted fighting the flesh. I want the war to end. Often I wonder, “Wouldn’t my life be easier if I just stopped fighting, and gave in?”

I forget that giving in to the power of sin does not end the war, it just transfers me to a different side. We will be at war, but one side is better. One side wins. Augustine put it well in The City of God. He writes that God’s people are in terrible war against sin,

Yet this evil state is better than the earlier condition of this life, for it is better to struggle against vices than to be free from conflict under domination. Better war with the hope of everlasting peace than slavery without any liberation.

This life is war. We will fight vice, or be enslaved by it. We live on war rations. We sleep in trenches. We wake up some mornings with hopelessness in our hearts. It is an “evil state”, yet it is a superior state to warring against heaven, because this is no normal war – it is a war for our souls, and it is a war which we can see the end of: all with God win.

How do we see that? We may look forward to the promises of heaven in revelation. We may also look backward to the cross, and see God become a man. That man, the only innocent bystander in history, aligned himself with the sinful and needy. He was bruised in the place of sinners, so that he might transfer them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. He became a casualty of the war we caused, so that we might be sure that one day this war will end, and we will see him as he is, and we will be like him in perfect, glorious resurrection.

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