Here’s how the Bible starts out:
Genesis 1: “Six Days of Creation and the Sabbath.”
Genesis 2 – “Another Account of the Creation.”
Genesis 3 – “The First Sin and Its Punishment.”
Maybe. Maybe not. The headlines are not part of the Bible; they’re insertions, added by the publisher. (The above were from the New Revised Standard Version; your headlines may vary.) I’d like to create my own headlines, at least “in the beginning.”
Instead of considering the first story of the Bible as about creation and how sin entered the world, I’d like to think of it along a different theme. I think the Bible starts with a story of the most important thing in life, something we cannot do without. I’m assigning Genesis 1-2 a new headline:
“The First Story of Love.”
Multiple times the story uses “good” to describe our world. Only once is the description “not good” used. “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (2:18) A person without love: not good. We are made for relationships.
Eve had been instructed by Adam not to eat from that tree in the middle of the garden. Don’t even touch it. (3:3) Note God hadn’t prohibited touching the tree, just don’t eat from its fruit. (2:16-17) But Adam took it a bit further. We’ve always had a tendency to be stricter than God. This strictness eventually damages love.
Eve desired wisdom, so she ate. And she got what she desired. Before that, her relationship with Adam had never been truly equal: Adam was first; Adam had spoken directly with God; Adam named everything. But now Eve was wise. She looked at Adam; he was clueless. He just didn’t get it. Who’s the unequal partner now, pal?
What did Eve do with her wisdom? She could have used her new wisdom as an ace-up-her-sleeve for the rest of time. (Oops—no sleeves yet. Sorry.) Instead, “And she also gave some to her husband…” (3:6) She opted for equality over superiority. Love doesn’t take advantage.
“…and he ate.” (3:6) After all, like the serpent said, the fruit hadn’t killed her. Yet something in her had died, Adam could see that. It horrified him. The side effects of that tree’s fruit—not pretty. Maybe Eve told him what she’d done; maybe he put it together by himself. He was faced with a tough choice: to be right with God, or to be with Eve. “…and he ate.” He chose Eve. Love often asks us, “Do you want to be right or do you want to choose love?” (Can I get back to you on that? Because I so love to be right!)
Of course the story is about sin and banishment from Eden. But maybe we’ve overlooked that the story is even more about love. And love eventually always gets messy. Love always demands a hard choice. At first you fall in love (“bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”). But to stay in love, you have to choose.
There follows a long section about the consequences, and they are not pretty. Love doesn’t solve everything. So they made clothes, to hide what had never been a problem before. Then God gives them a going-away gift. “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” (3:21) “If you’re going to wear stuff, you’ll find these much better,” God seems to say to them.
Apparently God, too, set aside being right and chose to be in relationship with this beginning-to-love couple. Perhaps they’d been made in God’s image after all.
That’s the story of love.