Today’s Scripture focus: Romans 5:12-19

I am glad for second chances.  We live in a culture that teaches us the following pieces of “wisdom”:

1. You never get a second chance to make a   first impression.

2. You only live once.

3. Carpe Diem.

And yet, every now and then, you catch a glimpse of hope in our world.  Maybe it comes in the form of a kind word or forgiveness from someone you love.  Maybe it comes in the form of grace offered and judgment deferred – like a police officer letting you off with a warning (yeah, that’s never happened to me either).  Maybe it even comes in the form a movie – I’m thinking The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid as a high school science teacher and baseball coach.  He had been drafted to play in the major leagues, but an arm injury ended all hopes he might have had at sports fame.  As the movie progresses, we find that something has happened in those years since his baseball career ended.  He is throwing harder as a 39-year-old father of three than he did as a young twenty something right out of college.  He gets drafted for the majors again and makes it to the big time for a couple of seasons.  He gets a second chance.

As I read today’s passage, I get the distinct impression that Paul is saying to us, there is good news – Adam gets a second chance in Jesus.  Where disobedience came through Adam, obedience comes through Jesus.  Where death came in through Adam, life will come in through Jesus.  Where sin came through Adam, righteousness will come through Jesus.  Where judgment came through Adam, grace and forgiveness will come through Jesus.  Jesus, the “second Adam,” comes to redeem the fallen Adam and all those that have been stained by his failure.

It got me to thinking, though – what about Eve?  Eve was Adam’s wife.  As the scripture says, a man will leave his mother and father and cleave (be united) to his wife.  Following that train of thought, we might ask “Who would be this equivalent in Jesus’ life?”  A quick look at scripture reveals a striking answer.  In the letter to the Ephesians, we find these words:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.   (Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV, emphasis added)

Did you catch that?  If Jesus is the “second Adam” then the church is the “second Eve.”  It is as though Genesis were repeating itself.  Adam is placed into a deep sleep (a death, maybe) and from his broken body Eve is drawn out.  God breathes the breath of life into this new being (the word for Holy Spirit means “breath” or “wind” – see John 20:19-23 or Acts 2:1-13).  Eve is united with Adam.  You see, I believe that the church is intended to be the perfect fulfillment of God’s divine plan for Adam and Eve, even for all creation – “And they were naked and not ashamed.”  “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  “She is [Eve,] the mother of all living.”

Now, I have been accused of being an idealist more than once.  I know that you don’t have to look very far to see that Church has fallen far short of this great opportunity. Divisions, squabbles, wars, violence, hatred, pain, prejudice, fear – all these can be traced back to the Church.  But it doesn’t change the fact: the Church is the bride of Christ, who “gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” 

Did you catch that last part?  You see, that is what I’m finding in my life this Lent – cleansing from the word of God.  I need to hear God speak these truths over me: “I love you.  I created you.  I accept you.  I want you.  I desire to be close and intimate with you.  I long for you.”  I think that if we could fully grasp this identity as Christ’s bride – sanctified, cleansed, the fulfillment of Eve’s fallenness – we just might be on the road to making it a reality.  We might be fruitful in the ways of justice and peace in the world.  We might multiply forgiveness, reconciliation, love, honor, respect, and healing.  We might begin to embody God’s shalom.  We might be naked – not in our clothing choices, but in being transparent with one another, taking off all the masks and pretentions – and have no shame.  We might just find that we are becoming the bride of Christ.  We might just find that we are becoming the Second Eve.

Prayer:  God, it is a high calling to be a part of your bride.  We confess that we have fallen dreadfully short of living up to that call.  We confess that we have succumbed to the temptation to live by the culture of this world – hiding behind power, manipulation, fear, and hatred.  Help us to come to you.  Wash us with the water of your word.  Let us stand before you, naked and unashamed, for we have been made holy by our Groom.  Amen.

* Note: This blog post is part of a series of reflections for Lent.  The passages are based on a booklet Steven wrote for Ecclesia, the church he pastors in Fairview, NC.