The Bible describes us as corrupted from the image God made us in. How did this happen? It is recorded in the book of Genesis of the Bible. Shortly after being made ‘in the image of God’ the first humans (Adam and Eve) were tested with a choice. The Bible describes their conversation with a ‘serpent’. The serpent has always been understood to be Satan – an spirit enemy to God. In the Bible, Satan usually speaks through someone. In this case he spoke through a serpent:
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-7)
Their choice (and temptation), was that they could ‘be like God’. Up to this point they had trusted God for everything, but now they had the choice to become ‘like God’, to trust in themselves and be their own god.
In their choice to be independent they were changed. They felt shame and tried to cover up. When God confronted Adam, he blamed Eve (and God who made her). She blamed the serpent. No one accepted responsibility.
What started that day has continued because we have inherited that same independent nature. Some misunderstand the Bible and think that we are blamed for Adam’s bad choice. The only one blamed is Adam but we live in the consequences of his decision. We have now inherited this independent nature of Adam. We may not want to be god of the universe, but we want to be gods in our settings, separate from God.
This explains so much of human life: we lock our doors, we need police, and we have computer passwords– because otherwise we will steal from each other. This is why societies eventually collapse – because cultures have a tendency to decay. This is why all forms of government and economic systems, though some work better than others, they all eventually breakdown. Something about the way we are makes us miss the way things should be.
That word ‘miss’ sums up our situation. A verse from the Bible gives a picture to understand this better. It says:
Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16)
This describes soldiers who were experts at using slingshots and would never miss. The word in Hebrew translated ‘miss’ above is יַחֲטִֽא . It is also translated sin through the Old Testament.
The soldier takes a stone and shoots it to hit the target. If he misses he has failed his purpose. In the same way, we were made in God’s image to hit the target in how we relate to Him and treat others. To ‘sin’ is to miss this purpose, or target, that was intended for us.
This missed-the-target picture is not happy or optimistic. People sometimes react strongly against the Bible’s teaching on sin. A university student once said to me, “I don’t believe because I do not like what this is saying”. But what does ‘liking’ something have to do with truth? I do not like taxes, wars, or earthquakes – no one does – but that does not make them untrue. We can’t ignore any of them. All the systems of law, police, locks, and security that we have built into society to protect us from each other suggest that something is wrong. At least this Biblical teaching on our sin should be considered in an open-minded way.
We have a problem. We are corrupted from the image we were first made in, and now we miss the target when it comes to our moral actions. But God did not leave us in our helplessness. He had a plan to rescue us, and this is why Gospel literally means ‘good news’ – because this plan is the good news that He saves us. God did not wait until Abraham to announce this news; he first announced it in that conversation with Adam and Eve. We look at this first Good News announcement next.