Wednesday, January 9, 2019


A relatively short time passes between "It was very good" and the appearance of sin in the world. By Genesis 3, God speaks His first difficult word into the world: the curse.

When we read the curse, it's easy to focus on what it means for us. It's easy to think about the hard labor of men that will produce limited returns. It's easy to think about the pain of childbirth for women and their perpetually-frustrated love. These things make sense to us, probably because we're living them. We recognize them in our own lives, so when we read them in the curse, we are able to say, ah. Yes. Cursed indeed that is. 

But the curse that is perhaps most telling, because it is most foreign to us, is the curse on the serpent. 

The curse on the man and the curse on the woman are hard for us to grasp because they are so familiar. They are the story of our lives, and they are how things have always been for us, so it's difficult for us to see how that's different in any meaningful way. We did not walk with God in the cool of the day like Adam and Eve did; we didn't eat from the Tree of Life. We don't know what things were like without the curse, and it takes a great feat of imagination to even begin to try. The truth is that most of us can't imagine a life without the curse, so it's just...well, life. 

The serpent, on the other hand, points us to just how devastating the curse was, changing the very nature of life itself. The curse on the serpent is simple - he will crawl along the ground on his belly all the days of his life and will eat dust. He will strike the heel of the woman and her offspring will crush his head. 

Sounds everything like a snake, doesn't it? Crawling on the ground. Stirring up dust that then gets in its mouth. Striking at the heels when threatened. Yup. Sounds like a snake. So the serpent was a snake. 

Not always?

If this is the curse, then the life that God is describing here for the serpent is different than the life that the serpent was living before the curse. It's likely that the serpent crawled along the ground on its belly, as the curse for both men and women began with something that they were already doing - working the land, having babies. But before the curse, the serpent may not have eaten dust. It may not have struck at the heel of the human, and it would not have had its head crushed. 

Before the curse, the serpent might not have been a snake. 

That means that every time you see a snake, you're seeing a creature shaped by the curse. You're seeing a creature that didn't exist like that in its purest, intended form. You're seeing a fallen being, not the wise, intelligent creation of God. 

Let that sink in because it's important. It's important not because it should change the way we think about snakes, but because it should change the way we think about humans. Ourselves, yes, and others also. 

Every time you see a human being, in the mirror or in the grocery store or in the pew right beside you, you are seeing a creature shaped by the curse. You are seeing a creature that didn't exist like that when God first fathomed it. You are seeing someone who is not what they were most intended to be. You are seeing a fallen being. 

Our challenge, as persons of faith, is to try to imagine what that creature, that human being, would be like if he or she weren't cursed. What that human being looks like in God's eyes. What He intended for him or her, what He hopes for him or her, what promise He holds out for him or her. Our challenge is to see in everyone what he or she would be like in the Garden in the cool of the day. In a perfect world, who is that? 

What if the serpent is not a snake? 

And what if we treated him like he wasn't?

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