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I was born in the home of sinful parents. I had no choice. The Lord did not ask about my family of origin preferences. He gave me a set of parents, and into the world I came. Three boys were waiting on me, and another one came later. As I reflect, it did not matter where I was born or who my parents and siblings were because all families are the same in that they are corrupt, totally depraved sinners in need of the transformative gospel (Romans 3:10-12, 23; John 3:7, 15:5). If there happens to be any difference between my family and yours, it is the intrinsic peculiarities of our natures and the extent of our sinfulness but not the fact of our collective fallenness (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Like me, my parents and siblings were victims of sin’s curse (Romans 5:12). Through Adam, sin entered the world, and its corrupting toxin spread to all people. My family had no “say so” about being sinful, for all have sinned (Romans 3:10-12). But we are not helpless victims. There is a way to get out from under the control and corruption of sin; each person must be born a second time (John 3:7). Redemption makes the Lord Jesus different from the rest of us (Matthew 1:18-25). He was not born in Adam. This difference qualified Him to save us from what happened to us (Romans 6:23).
Though Christ is the answer, it is hard for some people to grasp. I recall Pat Martinez telling me this in 1989 in Queens, NY. She was a heroin-addicted prostitute who came to a church meeting in response to my plea. God did regenerate her, eventually, but on that night, Pat was clear about the impossibility of navigating the horror story that had been her life. She said, “Rick, you do not understand. You’re talking about peace, love, hope, mercy, and heaven. All I know is darkness, drugs, murder, prostitution, and hell. I cannot possibly comprehend what you’re saying.”
Most of us have not had Pat’s story, but we have struggled in our unique ways. I’ve talked with many children, who are adults now, but they continue to struggle with how their parents parented them. They strongly feel victimized by the sin of their parents (Genesis 3:16-19). They are honest and vulnerable about their truth claims. I would never minimize or dismiss people or their stories about what happened to them. That would be cruel. The sad part with many of them is how they still harbor low-grade anger toward their parents and the others who hurt them.
Even their civility masks their low-grade churning. They might call it disappointment, discouragement, regret, unresolved guilt, unforgiveness, hurt, or even sadness about their formative years. Regardless of their interpretation, it’s still anger, which has a way of blinding them from seeing the merciful hand of God in their pasts. Not understanding how God is in their histories feeds their anger as they rehearse what happened to them. When anger sits too long on the shelves of our hearts, it spoils; it turns bitter, which will eventually leech out, defiling us and all those close to our contagion.
I’m not condoning what people did to them. I’m not suggesting those hurtful individuals were unable to do better. I am a parent, and I know I could have done better with my children. I made mistakes. The practical outworking of my salvation is imperfect at best. Without making excuses, I was born in darkness, outside the boundaries of God’s love. There are areas of darkness that I have not overcome. This reality is what the Lord used to help me stop hating my dad for all his mistakes.
The darkness I was born into, and the parts I have yet to overcome have motivated me to look for another option. How would I know about darkness if there were no opposing light? Light and love are the counter-balancing opposite of darkness and evil. Like evil, love requires an antithesis. We have love and hate, good and evil, light and darkness. If everything were love, there would be no real understanding, appreciation, or experience of love. Love needs a perimeter to give us a comparative perspective and fuller knowledge of God’s amazingness. This practical truth is what the Lord did for Adam. He told him love had a perimeter, and he must not transgress it.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
God was clear to Adam. Within those boundaries of love, he would have an incredible experience of worship, peace, goodness, and many other benefits (Psalm 103:1-3). When John wrote about these matters, he simply stated that “God is love (1 John 4:8) and if you want to experience love, stick with Him, and if you want to experience the opposite of love, transgress love’s line.” Outside of love is evil, judgment, and wrath. This striking truth is what makes peace, love, and mercy so profound. We who have lived under the Lord’s wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18) and have been saved by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) fully appreciate these mercies from God (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Christians need to understand that the Lord has reached into our darknesses and brought us into His light (Ephesians 3:20-21). Our kind and merciful Lord gave us a new and permanent condition (2 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 2:9). We are people of the light, no longer walking in darkness. Though we have a corrupt, former manner of life that may continue to hamper and hinder us, that former life is no longer who we are. Our identity is entirely in Christ. He has brought us inside the boundaries of love.
Think about love like a big, beautiful living room situated in the middle of a home, surrounded by many evil rooms. Grace, mercy, faith, joy, peace, hope, and purity are inside your new living room. If you choose to leave this room, you begin to experience evil, hate, anger, shame, depression, and fear. The world the Lord created was a room of love, but it has boundaries. Outside of His love is evil, and He gives humanity a choice as to whether we want to live within the limits of love or experience the evil that waits outside the door (Genesis 4:7). Adam and Eve chose to transgress love’s boundaries, and when they did, they experienced the corruption that came with their unbelief.
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15).
Their consequence was not God’s fault. Adam was the one who brought chaos to the human condition. His deliberate act sent the world spinning out of control. Because of his choice, you and I suffer. The Lord did not create people where love is robotically mandated, but He did give us the ability to choose love and love’s ways or choose evil and evil’s ways. To sin or not to sin is our choice, not a decision the Lord will make for us. You and I have to decide which path we are going to take. If we do not choose the way of God’s love, there will be proportional fallout just like it was in the days of Adam.
Too many people blame God for the evil in our world. We accuse the Lord of not being there when our worst fears come to pass (Job 2:9). The sinful world we live in is not the sinless world He created. The world we live in was made evil by someone else. Adam chose to walk on the wild side. He wanted darkness over light, death over life, and wrath over love (Romans 1:18). He pushed the boundaries of God’s love—a choice that brought us a cursed world (Genesis 3:6-19).
To blame the Lord is as illogical as standing in the heat on a sweltering summer day and cursing the sun because you’re sweating. All of us were born under the sun’s heat, and until we choose differently, we will always experience the adverse effects of the sun’s heat. I wish it could have been another way for you. I wish you and I were not born from sinners, as sinners, to sinners, surrounded by sinners. It would be nice to be born in a place like Genesis 1 and 2—the world the Lord created for His creation, the place where love was.
To some degree, and somehow, you were ripped off by somebody. But there is good news. Just because you’ve had a horrible experience, it does not mean you have to stay there. None of us got the life we wanted. That is a sad consequence of sin’s curse, but it does not have to leave you despairing. The same good Lord who gave us a perfect world has created a plan to provide us with another ideal world. Rather than blaming the Lord for what happened to you, you can bless His holy name for His redemptive plan for your life.
The Lord has not given up on you. The original intent for humanity can come to you if you want it to come to you. The Garden is gone, and the consequences of the fall remain, but you do not have to be held down by sin. You have to choose to continue to allow sin’s domination to rule over you or call out to the Lord, asking Him to help you claim the victory Jesus Christ provides for you. Be a victim no more. God is asking you to do what He asked Adam to do. He wants you to trust Him. There is a sweet love found in the heart of God, but you have to do something to get it.
Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). God told Adam what he could and could not do (Genesis 2:16-17). It was his decision regarding life or death, and it is yours too. If you continue to hold onto your victim card, you will never experience the love of God the way God wants you to enjoy it. It will cause more alienation from the life you could have with God (Ephesians 4:17-19). There is no minimizing what I’m suggesting. I would not pretend that what happened to you is not real and that it does not hurt. Let’s face it: you did not get the life you wanted. Perhaps you’re an angry teenager who hoped to have a better life circumstance.
I hear you. That is what I wanted. I was hurt, lonely, discouraged, and angry. What I could not realize is how this is the way everybody lives. No exceptions. Expecting a Genesis 1-2 lifestyle in a post-Genesis three world is misguided thinking. Looking backward, thinking about how things could have been while hoping for a different outcome in the future will not change you. The Lord has something better for you (John 12:32; 3:14-16). Though He did not create your mess, He has a plan to walk you through it, which is what Paul learned when he finally recalibrated his suffering through a God-centered worldview.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
There are six things you need to respond to in Paul’s passage on suffering. If you answer the questions carefully and correctly, you can get what you want in time, not freedom from suffering (Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21) but resurrection grace that will release you from the curse of sin’s hardships.
You received a lousy deal: you were born in sin, and your co-conspirators shaped you sinfully, which makes you normal. It was not God’s intended design for His creation, so He developed a plan to reverse your curse. You now have the opportunity to flip the narrative of your life. What evil meant for evil, you can transform for your good and God’s glory. Perhaps change is too hard for you to do alone. It is for most people. The best place to change is in a community. It would be a joy to serve you. If we can help you, please learn about all the ways our ministry serves the body of Christ.
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