Day 02 Devotional & Discussion – March 6, 2014

Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:1-24

The First Infraction….  God established a law–You may not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil–and laid out the consequences–You will die.  Crime and punishment.  And you know the rest of the story: Girl listens to serpent. Girl eats fruit. Girl gives fruit to boy.  Boy eats fruit.  There are consequences.  Yet, there is also mercy.  God makes garments of skin for the couple to clothe them.  Some commentators have suggested that in this act of clothing Adam and Eve, God makes the first animal sacrifice to forgive their transgression, foreshadowing the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and the death of Christ in the new covenant when God will forgive our iniquity and remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34).

We are familiar with crime and punishment in our system of justice.  However, we are less familiar with mercy in the midst of the process of punishment.  In fact, we have shut the door to mercy through mandatory sentencing, “three strikes” laws, zero-tolerance policies (even for 6 year olds) and sentences that conclude with the phrase “without possibility of parole”.

What do you think about God’s fashion statement?  What do you think of a penal system that does not include mercy?

3 comments

  1. This past week, an elementary aged boy was expelled from school for 2 weeks for breaking the school’s ban on guns in school. Had he brought a real gun to school? No. Had a brought a toy look-alike gun to school? No. He had shaped his hand into a gun and made shooting sounds. Two weeks. Expelled. What did that boy learn in school today? I am as concerned about guns in school as anyone. I am concerned about how few restrictions we place on guns and gun purchases. But I am REALLY concerned that we punish children for pretending. Do children need to be shaped? Yes. Do children need to understand the consequences of their actions? Yes. But children also work out their fears through dramatic play. And children need to have loving adults help them process their fears and their actions. Zero-tolerance policies are (in my opinion) the first step in the school to prison pipeline. What do you think?

  2. I especially appreciate the mercy in the story of the Fall, and I can’t say that I have heard of the idea that the skins given to Adam and Eve for clothing represents the first sacrifice for sin. Not sure that was the intent, and yet the fact of the matter is that is what happened.

    “We are less familiar with mercy in the midst of the process of punishment.”

    That gets me thinking about our desire to see wrongdoers punished. A few months ago, a man who lives down the street from our church property accidentally shot his infant, causing the infant’s death. People from Faith Church are close family friends with this man. The story has created a bit of a sensation in the local newsmedia, with some people calling for the man to be thrown in prison. He pled guilty to charges (manslaughter, reckless endangerment of a child, and something about use of weaponry, I think), and is awaiting trial, so we will see. What we have heard on a personal level, as you can imagine, that this family is struggling hard. In response, the people from Faith Church who know them asked if we could take up a collection for them. I was so proud when our Council unanimously said yes. We didn’t get a huge response to the offering, but it was enough that the family was blown away. We’re hoping we can continue reaching out to them, especially through the Faith Church family that is close friends with them. This week the situation came up and one person remarked that he thinks the guy should be in prison!

    “Less familiar with mercy.” Why are we so quick to think that prison is the answer, especially for people who have been forgiven so much? I admit that I am not very knowledgeable about things like mandatory sentencing, three strikes, and “without possibility of parole”. My guess is that there is a rationale for them. “Without possibility of parole” seems egregious though. Are we right is deeming any crime so horrible that there is no possibility of parole? Can we ever say about a person or situation, “That is too bad for mercy of any kind.”? Here is where I see my knowledge gap. Does “without possibility of parole” mean that there is also no possibility of changing that judgment? If so, why not instead make a system whereby a person could have the chance to show they can change, even if it is a very long, difficult process of restitution and recovery?

    I am sure glad the Lord doesn’t have “without possibility of parole”, with the exception of the unpardonable sin, if anyone could ever understand what that actually is!

  3. I wonder how many times Adam & Eve looked at those skins (or, after the first suit was worn out, subsequent suits they themselves had to make) and remembered what they had. They couldn’t go back to where they were before – there was no return to Eden. Everyday would have been a reminder of that, though we don’t read about GOD reminding them everyday about that. This is true not only for crime, but for any sin at all – we can’t undo what we’ve done, nor can we avoid the consequences.

    I’m not sure our justice system takes any of this into account. I suppose individual judges could be lenient or juries could suggest a light sentence because of obvious remorse or time served. But I don’t think that’s the norm. The system seems to be set up mostly to apply a sentence that is deemed a proper repayment for what has been done.

    What sticks out to me is that even though Adam & Eve were removed from Eden, they weren’t treated as less than human as a result. We don’t have a real clear picture of what the relationship between God and Adam & Eve was like after the Garden, but we do know that God blessed the first couple with children and that they in turn saw their children as a gift from God. This was part of the original blessing of God to “be fruitful and multiply,” and so, shows that while consequences were suffered Adam & Eve retained their humanity.

    Perhaps this is the troubling thing about a lack of mercy – that it ultimately removes one’s sense of humanity. One begins to think he/she is not a person, but a thing – unvalued and unloved. And how far from the truth that is! Perhaps mercy is not just not getting what we deserve, but having who we are affirmed in God’s eyes as well as our fellow human beings.

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