I used to think that if conditions were more favorable, I would make better choices. It would be easier to obey God—if only. . . . If only I had become a Christian younger in life. If only my spouse was more like Jesus. If only I knew more. If only I didn’t have this problem. If only life had handed me . . . and the list goes on.
I also used to think that my children would walk more closely with the Lord if only I had been a better parent. Then I heard a man say, “God is a perfect Father, yet Adam and Eve still blew it.”
Adam and Eve were created sinless and perfect. They lived in a perfect place, had a perfect relationship with God and each other, and they did not know about good and evil. They had only one command to obey, only one! But they blew it. They disobeyed because the fruit that God told them not to eat seemed “good for food . . . pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6)
After they ate it, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” This verse is more about shame and guilt; nakedness is not the issue. They realized that they had done wrong and were no longer innocent before God.
Verse 8 confirms it: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
The Bible tells about the beginning of the human race and the beginning of sin for a reason. I need to know what happened and how it happened to help me acknowledge my own sinfulness. Without the capacity to admit sin, I cannot come out of hiding and experience God’s mercy.
That’s the problem with the “if only’s.” These are excuses and another way of trying to avoid taking responsibility for my disobedience and rebellion against God. Instead of saying “I am wrong,” I shift the blame to the people around me or blame my circumstances.
It’s ironic that Adam did the same thing. When God asked him, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” his response was, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.”
Adam sounds like he is blaming Eve, but really is blaming God. If only you hadn’t put this woman in my life, I would not have sinned. When I blame others, who am I really blaming?
Eve wasn’t much better. She blamed the serpent who “deceived” her, and while the New Testament confirms that she was deceived, this is still another excuse; If only I could better understand what God wants, or If only I wasn’t so easily distracted or If only I were smarter. . . .
Last Sunday I mentioned a prayer request from someone who had been wronged. Another lady said, “Why do people do awful things like that?”
At first, I thought of an answer that would put Christians on a pedestal and the person who had harmed the other person into another category, but the Holy Spirit gave me this answer instead: “We do it because we are sinners.”
That is the right answer. No excuses. No ‘holier than thou’ stuff. As members of the fallen human race, we are in this mess together, and the only way to fight it is by first admitting that we have a problem.