Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Obedience Restores Creation

Adam and Eve

“In the beginning God created heavens and the earth. … God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” (Gen 1:1, 3). God spoke and it was made. There was no resistance, no struggle. All of creation was obedient to His word.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them” (1:26, 27). Man is created in the image of God—man is a reflection of the divine image. Man, like all things, came to be without struggle. His intelligence reflected divine intelligence, his power the divine power, and his love divine love.

Man sinned; he did not obey God. He saw what was forbidden him as “a delight to the eyes” (3:6). The woman took the fruit without struggle, the man did too. “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24b). They obeyed desire without resistance. Both man and woman transgressed God's will—the first struggle in creation. While man was given Eden so he might “till it and keep it” (2:15), his labor was without resistance. The first struggle was disobedience.

God then questioned, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree which I commanded you not to eat?” (3:11). Man struggled further. He blamed the woman. She blamed the serpent. There was no acceptance of guilt, no self-accusations, no obedience. But God did not destroy when He punished them. They remained intact. God did not deform them—they remained a reflection of His image.

Man, however, would now reflect his disobedience in his life as well. His work would now reflect the struggle of disobedience. The soil would resist his will. Even his own body would resist his will. Work that was once necessary now became necessary and difficult. This was to teach man what sin is by analogy—the resistance of the world to us is a reflection of our resistance to God.

God did not destroy man: an act of love. God promised us a savior and salvation from disobedience: a second act of love. Thirdly, God clothed man and woman. He did not send them out in shame, but clothed them. Nakedness became shameful to them, since sin is a source of shame. They carried with them the guilt of their sin, but they were not exposed to shame by God. They were allowed to toil in confidence that their hard work would produce fruit and they were to enjoy the fruit of their labor without being exposed to shame. “Above all hold unfailingly to your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).

God showed how one's love for another covers the sin of another. God promised that love not only protects one from shame but restores creation to its original state. “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). Love compels one to forgive, it restores the other, and it demands reciprocity—obedience—to be complete. God has given us this. To love is to obey. To obey is to carry out God's work. To carry out God's work is to share in the fruit of that work, now and forever. We have hope in all of these things through Jesus Christ.

Jesus and Mary

How? Jesus' life began by the simple “yes” of a virgin. God sent His angel to her, bearing His Word. Her “yes” was perfect obedience. There was no struggle—creation as it originally was. Christ came into this world through the cooperation of a woman with God. “Do two walk together, unless the have made an appointment? … Surely God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:3, 7). “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary is the servant, the God-bearer, and the obedient one. She is the new Eve because through Eve, “mother of all living” (Gen 3:20), disobedience entered creation. Through the new Eve obedience brought forth the savior. She became by her obedience to His will the “mother of all living” in the Spirit. God sought a humble woman to walk with Him, to bear the fruit of trust, love, and obedience and share in the glory of His Son's mission.
Her "yes" brought us the savior. It brought her joy and great suffering. It won her an incomparable crown since only Christ mother could suffer with her son in a unique way.

Why should the savior, God, be born of a woman? Through Jesus God came to share in humanity, through Mary man came to share in divinity through Christ. God effected the change, but He sought out man to share in His work.

Man was created in the image of God. Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. Jesus humbled Himself to be obedient to the Father. He took on flesh—He obeyed His flesh and His flesh obeyed His will.

Christ brought about salvation through obedience, and His obedience was to live as creation was meant to be. Unlike Adam, Jesus was born into a world mired in sin and death. He became like us in all things but sin. His servants, however, protected him, raised him, loved him, and worked with him. His servants Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna. His Apostles too worked alongside Him, instruments of His will yet also willing participants in His saving work.

It is Jesus who saves us, because Jesus is the God-man. Jesus showed us simultaneously the wages of sin and the path to salvation.

Creation was brought about without struggle. Jesus was like “a sheep led to slaughter … he opens not his mouth” (Is 53:7). Did creation talk back to its Creator? Yet here the Word did not talk back to men, motivated by anger, pride, envy, and fear—attendants of sin—but was obedient to their will. Christ so subjected himself to the will of sinful men that he accepted death, death on a cross.
His means of death was a sort of obedience, as he was dependent on everything else but himself. He hung there, helpless.

Man through sin distorted creation, as sin is opposed to God. Jesus placed the yoke of sin upon himself. He seemed as if he were less than any man because “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance” (Is 52: 14). Yet through the Father he was exalted and lifted up (52:13).

He suffered humiliation, torment, ridicule, pain, and death which are all the wages of sin. He did this and died. Sin forces all men into slavery. But Jesus “partook of [our] nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb 2:14-15).

He showed us that sin has the power to enslave us but not the power to destroy. God, sending His graces upon us, stretches out His hand to meet ours. We reach out and the gift is ours. We withhold our hand and we do not accept the gift.

If God did not destroy man because of his disobedience, imagine how He glorifies us through our obedience. His son, obedient to death was raised and glorified. He promises the same to us.

We are in the midst of a struggle. Those who seek life struggle against sin and are hated by the sinful. Those who hate God are already among those who appear living but are dead. Those who pursue sin seek destruction, yet even that will not be fully given to them.

To lose one's life is to gain it—this is obedience. Obedience means to be as God intends you to be. It requires sacrifice and it requires love.

“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet 5:8-9).

Christ has given us the Church, men who are “over you in the Lord” (1 Thes 5:13) to be a living voice of correction, a way of life, the inspiration of Scripture, the guidance of sacred Tradition, and the Spirit in every age to aid our discernment.

Denying any one of them outright is not from God, but disobedience and sin resisting God's will. God is merciful, and he bids us to show mercy. God has given us creation in order to worship Him. In denying what has been given to us, our fathers and mothers in history included, is to walk the wayward path. Those who desire control of themselves, disdaining correction, will be given over “to their stubborn hearts” (Ps 81:12). “The Lord preserves the simple” (Ps 116:6).