Adam – where are you?
When the serpent tempted humans in the Garden of Eden, Adam stood silently and passively beside his wife. This pattern has been repeated millions of times over the course of time. Many men shut themselves off when things become confusing or threatening. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, changes the omens completely.
We are in the most beautiful idyll in the Garden of Eden. Recently I photographed a picture on which the following text was printed next to a magnificent landscape: «Eden in Thurgau – the Thurgau landscape as a symbol of the Garden of Eden. There are certainly more regions in our fatherland that are even more fertile and better cultivated than the Thurgau, but no region in Germany has the reputation of an Eden as much as the Thurgau, because none is so heavily planted with fruit trees.» This is what Christoph Meiners – professor of worldly wisdom in Göttingen – wrote in a letter in 1788 and thus shaped the image of Switzerland.
In the Garden of Eden, the first human couple, Adam and Eve, lived happily and fulfilled together in harmony with their Creator. In the middle of this idyll they encounter a snake. The people of the Orient considered it to be the symbol of cunning and deception. «The serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had created. «Did God really say,» she asked the woman, «that you must not eat fruit from the trees of the garden?» «(Genesis 3:1 NL). Behind the serpent hides the tempter, also called Satan (muddler). That’s exactly the nasty way he’s still trying. He exaggerates enormously. People were allowed to eat from all the trees, but not from that one. Afterwards the snake lies to them both: «You will not die,» the snake hissed. God knows that if you eat of it, your eyes will be opened. You will be like God and will know good from evil.»(v.4f NL).
Adam is silent
Throughout history, the Church has usually blamed Eve for the fall of the human race. Alongside the capriciousness of the «weaker vessel», Adam is put in a better light. There are various good reasons to assume that Adam was standing next to Eve during the whole conversation. Of the four reasons that support this assumption, I will take out one. And that is: «And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to give understanding; and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.»(v.6 Elb). Why didn’t Adam say anything? Before God created Eve, he had commanded Adam never to eat from this very specific tree. He probably did. But when the serpent crept up and engaged in a conversation to cast doubt on God’s goodness, Adam said nothing, even though he heard every word. He could have said: «Hey, hold this, darling! This snake is up to no good. I’ve seen through her wiles. We have no reason to doubt God’s goodness.» And then he would have turned to the snake and said, «Snake, the conversation is over. Get lost!«But Adam did not say a single word. He left his wife alone. The first time it came to that, God’s cause, in his first spiritual battle – he failed. Adam, where are you?
Immediately before this scene is the creation account. In Genesis 1, God encounters darkness and chaos. He spoke into the darkness, bringing forth order, beauty and relationship. It is a God who speaks to establish relationship. After he has created everything, he keeps the Sabbath.
Adam was created in God’s image, but behaves fundamentally differently. The serpent causes confusion and chaos. Interestingly, it is Eve who reflects the image of God more clearly than Adam, because she talks to the serpent. But what about Adam? The Bible does not report that God gave him any instructions about what to say to the serpent. So he kept silent. Adam was physically present, but emotionally not. He faded into the background instead of stepping forward into the limelight. He was made to talk, but he did not say a word. He listened to the serpent, he listened to what his wife said, he took of the fruit, and then he ate. Three times he reacted passively before eating from the forbidden fruit.
When God spoke, creation emerged from chaos; when Adam was silent, chaos returned to creation. God used language to establish a relationship; Adam used silence to destroy the relationship. God rested after creating everything; Adam had to work even harder as a result of his silence.
Many men still follow this pattern today; they do not feel competent in relationships and remain silent. Their safe terrain is work, where they take refuge. There they have something to say. Men among themselves very often talk about work.
Men are silent
Larry Crabb, a Christian psychologist, has written a book called «The Silence of Men». In it he shows that Adam’s silence is at the beginning of all male failure. Various men portrayed in the first book of Moses deliberately chose to remain silent or to look the other way, to forget or to turn away. And each time, they got themselves into trouble. For example, Abram, instead of trusting God’s plans, listened to the advice of his wife Sarai and slept with his servant Hagar. «And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold, the LORD hath shut me up, that I cannot bring forth. Go, I pray thee, to my handmaid, that I may have a son by her. And Abram obeyed the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her Egyptian maid, and gave her to Abram her husband to wife.»(Genesis 16:2–3 NL). Like Adam, Abram remains silent and passive when talking to his wife. But the silence still speaks today. Ishmael, Hagar’s son – from whose descendants the Arab peoples descend – despises Israel to this day.
And it goes on about the rebellion of a Cain, to the impatience of a Moses, from the weakness of a Peter to my own failure when I failed to meet my wife in love. Like you and me. Since Adam, many men feel the natural urge to be quiet where she should be talking. Many men feel most comfortable in situations where they know exactly what to do. But if things get confusing or threatening, something inside them tightens up and they close themselves off.
A man is on his way home from work. From six in the morning to six in the evening, nothing but conversations – with colleagues, customers and business partners. Tired as he was, he could hardly wait to get to the people he loved most – his wife and children. But as he turned into the driveway, his nerves tensed. In his mind’s eye he saw the children wanting to play with him and the wife wanting to know how his day had been. She would give a detailed account of what had happened since he left the house in the morning. When he entered the room, his wife greeted him with the question that millions of women ask their husbands every day. She asked, «How was it today?» He looked her in the eye and said only one word: «Good.» He hoped that was the end of the conversation. Immediately he turned to the mail and pretended it was more important than the woman’s question. Yet she only wanted to share in his life and he actually wanted to cherish and love her.
Silence is deadly
In the vernacular, we speak of the Fall in this story. Sin means the breaking of the relationship with God. The independent man, who is himself God and does not submit to Him, sins.
God had foretold Adam: «If you eat the fruit from this tree, you must die in any case» (Genesis 2:17 NL). The serpent claimed the opposite. Who is right? Much later, Paul looks back at this story. «For if because of the sin of the One, death reigned through the One, how much more shall those who receive the fullness of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ?» (Romans 5:17 Lut).
The first «one» is Adam. It was never God’s intention that man should age, become weak and feeble, suffer sickness and die. But because of Adam’s transgression or silence, death sets itself up as the boss of this world. Very clearly its power is brought before our eyes, especially in the current situation. Not all diseases and ailments are fatal, but they are manifestations of death. Even tiredness, weakness and lack of strength, are signs and symptoms of death. Even the silence of men smells of death. Instead of creating relationships, they are prevented. Death is the boss. He strikes at whom, where and when he wants. He does not tolerate contradiction.
Thank God for the «how much more»! What Jesus, the second Adam (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:47 NGÜ) did is so much more and far greater than what the first Adam did. He offers us «the fullness of grace and the gift of righteousness». Those who have accepted this gift will reign in life through Jesus Christ. He came to destroy death and give us eternal life. With him we can reign more and more over all forms of death – even if we still have to suffer sickness and death.
Blessed to be a blessing. Death is no longer the boss in the house of a Jesus follower. Jesus Christ is! Men can become a blessing to their environment by talking and relating even in uncertain terrain. Women can rejoice in this and also be life-givers for their environment. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, sets completely new signs in front of our everyday life!
Possible questions for the small groups
Reading the Bible text: Genesis 3:1–7
- Why did Adam behave so passively in the whole «snake scene»?
- Men are said to be rather quiet and reserved when they are on uncertain ground. In the professional world, on the other hand, they are often much more communicative. Could you confirm this statement?
- What is the difference for everyday life whether death or a follower through Jesus Christ is chief?
- For men: Does your family sense that you have reversed omens through Jesus Christ?
- For women: What could help the man to move better on uncertain terrain?