45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man.” – 1st Corinthians 15:45-49 (NIV)
1st Adam- “Author of our Woe”
Last Adam- “Messiah, Redeemer”
The first time I broke my mom’s heart I was 15, red eyed and feeling last night’s buzz. I would like to say I came clean out of conscience, but truth is, my conscience was coerced by my big brother. He caught me red-handed slurring words right before dawn. It was maybe 3 am, I can’t remember- I was drunk, but I do remember him standing at my parent’s bedroom door, hand on the knob as I begged for mercy at the foot of the stairs, stammering out whisper screams, No! No! No! No! Please! Please! Please! Please!
In an act of grace or pity for my pathetic groveling, he gave me the next 24 hours to tell my folks, which I did… at the 23rd hour. It was a whimpering moan of I am soooo sorrrry!!! And my mom cried and cleaned out the liquor cabinet for the trash. It was a difficult realization for her- me passing into the caustic climate of this world. Losing innocence in just one night.
But they extended me grace. I wasn’t grounded or punished at all, because well, it was my first time doing it and we all figured the curiosity was satisfied.
One of my friends, a fellow Christian, argued that it was actually harder for us to resist temptation. We grew up in the evangelical tradition which said that sin is horrible but super easy to erase. Simply bow your head before your bed and ask Jesus to forgive you. Problem solved because he wanted to forgive us and we wanted to be saved.
And this seemed to be the way faith played out at a young age. Like punching in and out of the clock at work. Just paying quick dues. Little by little as we grew up and eventually passed on into heaven. Just ask for forgiveness because it is there, ripe for the plucking.
We were young and stupid and didn’t grasp grace.
If we take the creation account literally, Adam built up an unbreakable wall with the bite of an apple.
While I find myself skeptical of the creation story being completely non-fiction, I am drawn to Adam and Eve and God’s intimacy. Genesis captures some truly moving auras of the three meandering below the garden trees, perhaps hand in hand. Perhaps sharing meals over a fire and under stars on soft grass. Maybe they would sing and dance and fall in love every day for the rest of time. Maybe it was perfect.
But then there’s a betrayal and a breaking heart and a sudden departure. Everything ruined. Beyond fixing.
But God speaks a soothsay, a haunting word for Satan the Serpent. A redemptive one for us. Jesus is coming to crush you. Jesus is coming to save you. All will be back.
To me, it is both beautiful and terrifying and I don’t know if I will ever understand the God of the Old Testament. But I do understand something about Justice, and I do believe that part of Christ’s call here on earth was to take the bullet for us. To endure the most painful punishment for generations of sin past, present and future. That His body became a shield and His blood sprayed like grace. And the wall came a tumbling down.
Jesus is the new and last Adam, which essentially means He is free will lived righteously. Adam is the grandfather of our flesh, Jesus is the father of our souls. These two become knit in our atonement through Christ and we are no longer descendants of Adam, we are first descendants of God. Adam broke the law that God gave and we continue to walk in the outlaw spirit. But the difference now, is that the legacy we live in is of Jesus. As Paul says, “sin is no match to grace.” So despite our screw ups, what we once were, even when we’re consciously aware that we’re sinning, God’s blood is enough. The sacrifice has been made.
So, recap: Adam fell, Jesus picks us back up: Grace.
So often we belittle grace to sayings like, “I’ll give you a grace period” without really understanding that grace does not have a beginning or an end. In fact, you cannot bottle up grace, you cannot plan grace, you cannot write grace down. Grace is always out of reach. It is always the next best thing you could say to someone, it is always better. We cannot lay a claim to grace, because it always above us. The beautiful gestures that we often call acts of grace, are actually just reaches for grace. Reflections of it.
It is our tried and true attempt to return to that intimacy that once felt hot like sun on the skin. Some days we simply don’t care. Some days we give up entirely. And some days we give it one more chance because this world is too screwed up to have not fallen from something so much greater. So much sweeter.
We live in this eternal emergence from Adam. From our selfishness, from stupidity, from our prejudices and bad choices. All the while grace steadily showers our flourishing souls. Drawing us higher to the Holy, inch by inch, little by little. Grace never leaves.
That is our reality now. Some may call it cheap. Some may say it’s lazy. Whether you agree with it or not, it is real. It is grace. All we have to do is accept it.