Practicing the Better: Goodness After the Fall

We saw God’s goodness in creation before the fall, we see it after the fall as well.  God did two things after Adam and Eve sinned that help us see what practicing the better looks like.

First, God went in search of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). They had gone into hiding.  God wants no one to live in hiding, so God’s propensity toward goodness was seen in the divine search.  Adam and Eve were God’s beloved children before the fall, and they remained so after the fall.  God’s search for them is proof of it.

We practice the better by seeking out and befriending those who have had to go into hiding.  There are many reasons why people hide–from others, from God, and even from themselves.  But no reason is adequate to justify the hiding.  We practice the better by going in search of any who are in hiding.  Practicing the better is always about liberation.

Second, God covered their shame (Genesis 3:21).  We hide because we feel ashamed–about something.  For Adam and Eve it was their nakedness.  For us, shame can be the result of a host of factors–usually brought on by what others have said about us and/or done to us, by what we have done to ourselves, or a combination of both.  But whatever the reason, God wants no one to live in shame, so God  covers it with garments of forgiveness, healing, recovery, and freedom.

We practice the better by saying to those whom we find hiding “You do not need to be ashamed.  Whether you feel shame because of what others have said and done to you, or because of your own actions, you are God’s beloved.  Be covered in that love!”

From these two insights from Genesis 3, we can say that the practice of the better is summed up in one word: mercy. [1]  God’s love is not limited to the times when things are going well, but is active also when life has hit rock bottom.  God’s love is faithful love shown to us every single day.

David summed it up in the twenty-third psalm, “Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life…”  Fair winds, and foul.  Sunshine or shadow–as Paul would later say, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38). 

Robert Fulghum has written that God’s favorite game is Hide-and-Seek.  We hide, and God seeks, shouting “Olly-olly-oxen free!” when we are found. [2]   We practice the better by going into the world in Jesus’ Name looking for those in hiding (living with a sense of shame) and upon finding them saying, “Be free!”

[1] We will return to God’s mercy in little while.  It is an overarching attribute of God and a foundational aspect for practicing the better.  Brennan Manning wrote about mercy in all his books, but none more powerfully than ‘The Wisdom of Tenderness’ (HarperSanFrancisco, 2002).  I had the joy of attending a retreat led by Brennan in 2001, where he spoke on what would become this book a year later.

[2] Robert Fulghum, ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’ (Ballentine Books, 1986), 54-56.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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