Let me ask you a question; how often are you having a conversation with someone, engaging in a little small talk, and the conversation turns to just how awful a place this world is? Maybe it was something that happened to you this last week – someone was rude or disrespectful to you; maybe you saw some example of ridiculously selfish behavior. Maybe it was how someone was raising their kids. Maybe it was worse. Maybe you were the victim of a crime or maybe you’re just talking about the latest local or even national atrocity you saw on the news. Maybe it happens anytime your conversation turns to politics these days. The world, the people in it…well they’re just disgusting, aren’t they? Maybe even that old standby escapes your lips: “Things just aren’t what they used to be.”
I’ll tell you what, you’re right. But, probably not in the way you meant it. This morning, let’s take some time to unpack that, take a look at why it’s true, at what really is wrong with our world. Let’s try to understand better what’s going on out there. But more important than that, let’s see what we can do about it.
To do that, let’s do some troubleshooting. It’s pretty obvious when we look at the world that something is wrong. There’s a lot of symptoms we could identify as we already talked about, but that doesn’t really bring us any closer to understanding the cause of those problems and more importantly, a solution. Of course, lots of people think they know solutions to the problems, including ourselves at times, right? How many times have we been having one of those conversations griping about the way things are and the words, “If only…” come on out? “If only their parents had raised them better.” “If only people just paid attention to where they were going.” “If only there was a law about that.” Pops right out and hey it’s perfectly rational, but would your brilliant solution really fix anything? No. No, it wouldn’t. Those fast fixes aren’t the answer. Instead of wasting time trying to patch up the individual symptoms we come across, instead let’s go back to the basics. Let’s take a look where it went wrong.
To do that, we’re going to have to go back a lot further than any sort of idealized age we might have in our head. Way back before we were children, back before the 50s, before the Romantic Age, back, back and back through the centuries and the millennia to the very beginning. Creation. God, infinite in wisdom, power and creativity, had a plan for a system so infinitely complex that not one human could possibly comprehend it all at once. A world with beauty and variety that we could never imagine on our own, with millions of species of all kinds of life that all function together in harmony, in a way that keep each other going perfectly. Everything interlocking exactly as it should and working together as a perfect world. All the creatures, all the life, all the inanimate forces of the world and most especially the human beings God had created, they were all perfectly in tune with the will of God. His will of selfless love for each other permeated and dominated everything. Nothing was wrong, no one was unhappy, there was no pain because everything and everyone knew what God wanted and did it. This is the way it was designed.
So what happened? If God did it so well, where did it go wrong? For that we need to turn to our section for today. (Read Genesis 3:1-19)
From the moment the fruit was eaten, up to God's declaration of consequence, it's pretty obvious things have been seriously broken. In fact, when you look at the behavior of Adam and Eve after they broke God’s law, it’s not so very different from those things out in the world we complain about. Running and hiding from God? Adam knew God. He knew God was all knowing and present everywhere. It’s stupid, it’s pointless, it’s irrational…he did it anyway. And then when God asks him what happened. Adam knew that God knew what happened, and yet Adam tries to misdirect the conversation, he tries to make excuses and then in a horrifying move, attempts to get out of this not only by placing the blame at the foot of his wife to save his own skin, but even implicated God himself when he says, “The woman you put here with me -”
He knows, just as well as you and I and especially God can see, this was his own fault. He was the husband, the head of the family. He stood by and said nothing while the serpent spoke with his wife. He watched as she took the fruit and didn’t try to stop her. He had some himself when it was handed over. This was on him. But now, instead of the selfless love he was created to show, his every action is selfish, he incriminates everyone but himself no matter how guilty he is. His wife does not act any better when it is her turn to be questioned.
And their behavior is just scratching the surface of what has changed now that they broke their relationship with God. Sin entered creation and everything was corrupted as a result. God elaborates on more of this at the end of our reading, talking about the troubles that will follow us now, and most shocking of all, man will return to the ground from which he was formed. Earthly death will chase us down now. Suffering and pain will be with us in our lives, and death will follow close on.
So that’s our world. It was a machine of infinite complexity designed by our God and now from one act of defiance, not one single part of that system is doing what it is supposed to. Not one piece is operating as it should. Let that sink in for a moment. Any of you who’ve ever tinkered with anything mechanical, what’s the consequences of just one part not working right? Could be minor, maybe some noise, heat, or just slowing things down. Or maybe it brings the whole operation grinding to a halt. What would happen in any machine where not one single part is functioning the way it should?
Exactly. Nothing that we see in this world should surprise us, except maybe that things aren’t worse than they are. Even that is only by the guiding hand of our gracious God.
So now with this in mind, understanding the state our world is in; what do we do about it? Well consider our analogy; when you have a machine where every single part is broken, where every circuit board is fried, where the parts are brittle to the point of collapsing to dust, where just leaving it function is a danger to everyone around – how do you fix that? You don’t, obviously. You wouldn’t even try. You would junk it and make a new one. You would start over. That’s the only option.
Except, what if there were something really valuable in there? Something you truly cared about more than even your own health and safety? Naturally you would try to get it out of there. Naturally, you would try to rescue it. And that’s exactly what God did. Sure, after the sin, after the corruption, God could’ve just wiped the slate clean and tried again. But he didn’t because that would mean these two people he loved, Adam and Eve, would be cut off from him, sent to hell forever. Their crimes, their sin forced them apart from a holy God. So God reached in and fixed it. He promised that the offspring of the woman would crush the work of the serpent and put the divide, the enmity, back where it belonged. No longer between God and man, but between man and the devil, the serpent.
His own son, Jesus would be that man. We inherited from our parents the same broken condition our first parents created. We were born in sin, cut off from God and unable to do anything about it. But God would accept payment on our behalf. Jesus lived the sinless life that you do not. Jesus died the sinful death that you ought. And because that life and that death were carried out by God himself, its value is immeasurable. The scale of God’s value cannot be tipped by human lives. There is no sin so large in your past that the blood of God himself cannot pay for. Everything you’ve done against God can and has been paid for already. By the life and sacrifice of Christ, you are bought from death, and the fall has been fixed. Not this world, that’s a lost cause, but when the time comes to scrap this world and start over, you will endure with God because God has rescued you from it.
It's important to remember this distinction. Yes, the world is a bad place, but it's the Titanic post-iceberg. It's going down. We're not trying to sweep the floors and rearrange the deck chairs to make it a nicer place while we sink. Our primary objective, our absolutely first and most critical goal, is to get people to the lifeboats. And there's plenty of room. This is something important to ask ourselves as God's people when we're trying to do good. Are we trying to get people to the lifeboats...or are we just trying to make the sinking ship a better place?
We want to save souls for eternity. The message of Jesus does this. The word of God, the same power that brought the world into existence, is the power that brings us to believe in Jesus. And then we are rescued. But here's the beauty of God's plan; when God brings us to faith, he doesn't just teach us about Jesus – he creates a whole new heart in us and that heart is the heart you were supposed to have. In other words, in faith, you become the part that you should have always been, and the more you study and learn God’s Word, the better you get at being the part of his creation that you were always supposed to be. What do you suppose the effect on the world is then? The more believers there are who take the time to build themselves up in God’s word, who strive to know their God best, the more they function as God intended and the better this world is going to be. It’s a beautiful side-effect of pursuing our main goal. We want ourselves to be rescued for eternity. We want those we care about to be rescued for eternity. But the more we pursue this goal of bringing ourselves and our loved ones closer to Jesus, the better the rest of this life is going to be as a result, too. This is exactly the same kind of encouragement Jesus was trying to give in our gospel when he told us to seek first God’s Kingdom and the rest would naturally follow.
So here it is. We want to complain about the world. We want to think we know what would fix all our social problems today. But there is only one fix. The world is broken beyond repair. Only God can rescue you and those you care about and he does it through the power of his Word that teaches us about Jesus. Learn that Word. Study that word. Take advantage of every opportunity to know your Lord and Savior better. The deeper you dig, the stronger your hold on that life-line of faith. And then share that Word so others might be saved. Concern yourself with eternity, with fixing the real problem. Let God fix the fall in you, and all the rest will follow naturally. Amen.