Genesis 3 is a turning point in the narrative of scripture. It is the moment when conflict enters the story. Genesis 1 and 2 tell the story of creation. It is the story of the great beginning. It tells the story of an all-powerful God who creates the entire world by speaking it into being. It reveals the story of a God who desired to share love and fellowship with others and so created the world and humanity in order to be in relationship with the creation. It is a good beginning.
But things change in chapter 3. Conflict enters the story in chapter 3. The good world that God created and the fellowship that God desired are in some ways erased. No longer can God be in intimate fellowship with the creation. However, Genesis 3 does not need to be viewed as the worst chapter in the Bible. While it does introduce conflict, it also begins to show one of God’s greatest traits; grace.
To be fair, the story of the fall is often not viewed as a glorious moment in the Bible. It is the moment when Adam and Eve eat of the fruit they were commanded not to eat and sin enters the world. Sin distorts the relationship between God and humanity. It mars the creation, causing it to no longer be the perfect world that God created it to be. Eugene Peterson describes the problem by stating, “A catastrophe has occurred. We are no longer in continuity with our good beginning. We have been separated from it by a disaster. We are also, of course, separated from our good end. We are, in other words, in the middle of a big mess.” Conflict enters the story. God had desired to be in fellowship with and share love with the creation. But Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden, and they are separated from the Creator.
Yet even in these early stages there are signs that God will not abandon his creation and that God will offer grace. Although there are consequences to sin, humanity is never cursed. The serpent is cursed and the ground is cursed, but humanity is not cursed. Eve will have pain in childbirth, but it is never called a curse. Adam will have to work the ground in order to cultivate the land and it will be hard work because the ground is cursed, but Adam is not cursed. God does not curse humanity. Humanity suffers consequences because of sin and the fall, but humanity is never cursed. God still desires relationship with God’s image bearers.
God expelling humanity out of the Garden can also be viewed as a sign of grace. In the Garden was the tree of life. If Adam and Eve stayed in the Garden, they would live forever. But who would want to live forever marred by sin? God kicking them out of the Garden and allowing them to die could be understood as God granting them mercy, not forcing humanity to live forever as sinners.
Adam and Eve, after eating from the tree, recognize their own sinfulness and so they make clothes for themselves out of fig leaves. While it may have seemed like a good idea, these clothes are clearly inadequate. Before exiling them out of the Garden, God makes garments of skin for them to clothe them. God provides for them even though they erred. Left to its own devices humanity will always be inadequate. However, God provides for humanity, giving humanity what it needs even if the only reason humanity has needs is because humanity sinned.
Even though God’s creation is marred because humanity did not obey but chose to become gods of their own, God will not abandon the creation. God will not abandon humanity. God is already acting out of grace and mercy and love. And God will very soon begin the process of redeeming the creation. God’s original designed creation has been distorted, but God’s ultimate desire will not be stopped. God will seek to redeem and restore. And ultimately, God will one day recreate. God will create a New Heaven and New Earth where once again God will rule over all God has made
God has always been a God of grace. Sometimes we just need to look harder to see it.