A flash of inspiration came as I was thinking and praying about what to share in my column this year. I started with my yearly habit of reading through the Bible in a year, and the thought of learning from the families in the Bible – their strengths, weaknesses, lessons we could learn from – came to mind. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness . . .” Romans 15:4 states, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Although situated in ancient times, their stories reflect many of our struggles, defeats, triumphs, and hopes. Although it will be a biblical families series (BFS), the titles are based on their situation or lessons applicable to current times.
Let us begin with the first family mentioned. We have given the name Adam from the neutral Hebrew word ha’adam, which means human or mankind created from adama (earth) in the “Book of Beginnings” or Genesis. Ha’adam was created first and was given the command and responsibility by God to name the animals. The division into male (ish) and female (ishshah) came only when the human’s side (Hebrew meaning, not rib) was taken and formed into a woman to whom he gave the name Eve. Eve was to be his equal on his side, living in harmony and unity, with both given dominion over all created things. That is why in marriage, they become “one flesh” going back to God’s original design – equal, complementary, interdependent, and dependent on God.
Everything was idyllic in the garden God created for mankind: a beautiful place, abundant provision of food, ongoing communion and communication with God, work and authority over created things, love and harmony between the first couple. But as the story goes, the serpent tempted and deceived Eve by questioning then negating what God said, and promised them a different reality apart from God. Eve did not see the deception (“you will be like God” when they already are, having been made in His image), and was tempted by what she saw that aroused a desire, and acted on it with her husband. The losses were tremendous: loss of the beautiful place, loss of abundant provision as one has to work hard for one’s needs, communication breakdown and hiding from God, hard toil, shame and blaming between them. Driven out of the garden lest they eat the fruit that will not let them die in their fallen state, they moved on, but God never left them on their own either. Later, there were more losses that caused them untold grief: Abel who was murdered by his brother Cain out of anger and jealousy, and Cain who left his parents.
What main lessons can we learn from their story? First, believe that God is always good, and his commands are not meant to withhold but to protect us from grief and destruction. One gift God gave man is the freedom of choice. Often, we decide without weighing the consequences of our decisions and choices instead of being guided by a sound mind and what God has revealed as good. When we decide by impulse and let ourselves be tempted by the lust of the eyes (ads that entice you to buy more, even getting into debt), the lust of the flesh (such as pornography, sexual immorality, highs brought about by drugs, alcohol, etc), and the boastful pride of life (wealth at any cost), we suffer the consequences and our family suffers too. That’s why, in parenting, it is good to train children to make choices and their consequences, and learn the discipline of waiting instead of instant gratification.
Second, family life works better when we follow God’s design. Husband and wife as equals and united make a strong team. As equals, they fulfill different roles. Sadly wives are treated as lesser, and have had to compete and assert independence from domineering husbands in many societies. As wife, Eve could have conferred first with Adam who was with her the whole time (Gen. 3:6) and to whom the instruction was given directly before she was formed (Gen. 2:15-17). Adam, as husband, could have protected Eve by reminding her of what God had said and talk her out of it. They could have asked God directly instead of giving in immediately. Instead, Adam remained silent, capitulated, and also ate the forbidden fruit, only to blame Eve later.
Third, even if we fail, God never gives up on us. Adam and Eve learned from this experience and tried to be faithful – to each other, to depend on God, to persevere together despite the pain of losing everything.