Last week, we talked about growing up in the Age of Innocence; growing up in a time of innocence is not to say any of us were innocent, because we weren’t! But we didn’t know much about life in the grown-up world. Ideal circumstances are good places for innocence and naiveté! When we were innocent and naïve, we had no suspicions! The world around us was filled with good and gracious people, who were no threat to us, or to our fellowman, or so we thought! It seemed that everybody was nice, and it never occurred to us that not everyone had our best interests in mind!
But eventually, we begin to see that NOT everyone is nice! The day comes when we realize that we are moral beings; I like to think of it as the Age of Discovery. Regardless of how much we want to believe in the instinctive goodness of man, and that if given enough time, we will clean up this old world all by ourselves, it simply isn’t going to happen! Adam and Eve blew it; their son, Cain, blew it when he killed his brother, Abel; and every human being who has lived since then, has blown it!
Sin is a part of our DNA, so to speak; it’s part of our human nature! Adam passed it down to us, and according to the Apostle Paul, in Romans 5.12, in Adam, all have sinned. As a consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to sin. Scholars in the fields of Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy and Theology have reached a chilling conclusion: Most people have the capacity for horrific evil! The daily evil all around us is barely the tip of the iceberg of evil: human trafficking, violence, ethnic cleansing and the atrocities of war, the Kim Jong Un’s of the world, corporate greed, scandals that test the imagination, radical religious and political extremism; you name it, it’s here!
However, in the Age of Discovery, we also discover our own tendencies of evil; we become aware of what the Bible says, that “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” and that “The wages of sin is death…but the gift of God is eternal life.” In the Age of Discovery, we come to understand that there are consequences for our behavior; if you touch a hot stove, you’re gonna get burned! If you say bad words, your Mom washes your mouth out with a bar of soap! (at least that’s the way it was when I was growing up!)
The Age of Discovery is the time in life when we are not only aware that you may get your hands slapped, or that you may have to go sit in the corner, but that you may have to learn to say, “I’m sorry!” It’s a time when you realize that some things are morally wrong; it’s a time when decisions we make have moral consequences. It’s a time when the decisions we make are not just a matter of uncomfortable consequences, but are hurtful, and offensive! The Age of Discovery is when we realize we are sinners! We realize that we are capable of blatant disobedience to God!
But the Age of Discovery is also the time in life when we discover the mercy and grace of God, as we experience how God makes a way for us to be made right with Him! Adam was the first person to experience the mercy and grace of God; Gen. 3.21 speaks of the Covering Atonement; it says, “The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.” One way of thinking of this Atonement, or the way things are made right between us and God, is to think in terms of a covering for sin; the first sacrifice for the sin of humankind was the sacrifice of animals for skins to cover their nakedness and their guilt. There is also what is known as the Scapegoat Atonement; Lev. 16.10 describes the practice of selecting a goat upon which all the sins of all the people in O.T. days, were placed on the head of a goat, and then, the goat was driven away from the camp into the wilderness carrying with it all the sins of the people. Then there is what is known as the Substitutionary Atonement; Hebrews chapters 7, 9, and 10 all speak to how in the Old Testament atonement was achieved by the blood sacrifice of animals; every year, on the Day of Atonement, the Priests in the Temple would make sacrifices for their own sins, and for the sins of the people.
But in Christ, we have a better way! Heb. 7.27 says, “…He [Jesus] did this once for all when He offered Himself [as a sacrifice for sins of the people.]” In Heb. 9.28, we are told that “…the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” In the Age of Discovery, we discover our need for grace, and find in Christ, grace and forgiveness! But that does not mean we remain in our innocence; that does not mean there are no consequences resulting from our discovery. This is when we experience the Age of Vulnerability.
Listen to this description of the Age of Vulnerability, as it’s described in Gen. 3.17, 23-24: “[And God said to Adam] Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life.” Imagine that! That’s like having a boatload of money and living on top of the world, and then, losing it! You then find yourself living under the steps of a burned out, condemn-ed, abandoned building, burning scraps of wood in a barrel in order to keep warm! One day, you are in an Eden world, and the next day you are out in the real world! As a consequence of their disobedience to God, all of their lives, Adam and Eve were forced to scratch out a living from working the soil!
In this real world, outside the Garden of Eden, there is a 1% and there is a 99%, and those of us who live among the 99%, live with some sense of vulnerability! We have to make a living! We have to pay rent, or pay the mortgage! We have to pay our taxes! We have to put food on the table, and clothes on our backs! And though I, like the large majority of those of us who know little of the Great Depression, most of us know how fragile and vulnerable our parents and grandparents were as a result of that Great Depression! Many in today’s world experience some of that vulnerability; not everyone has a job; not everyone has benefits; some people lose both their jobs, and their benefits.
But we are vulnerable in lots of other ways; living in the real world outside the Garden is a scary place! The Bible warns us, in I Cor. 10.12-13, to not feel too sure of ourselves: “Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to humanity…” There is no time in our lives when we do not need the mercy and grace of God in our lives! During the Age of Innocence, we may have been unaware of it, and likely took God’s goodness for granted; during the Age of Discovery, were smacked with the reality of our own “nakedness”, so to speak, before God; we were exposed for who and what we really are, and we discovered our need for the forgiving mercy and grace of God. And as we live in the real-world Age of Vulnerability, we are constantly aware of our need for the sustaining mercy and grace of God for all of life!
Thankfully, God gives us that sustaining grace for living life in the real world outside the Garden, and He assures us with this word: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” II Cor. 12.9 Paul says essentially the same thing in Rom. 8.38-39; “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.”
Growing up people, need growing up grace!