“Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right—if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die.” – Ezekiel 33:14-15
One way that many talk about what happened in the Garden of Eden — which is to say, one way to talk about the human condition, why it’s so fraught and difficult — is to say that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their disobedience, their sin, made death enter the world.
That’s never made sense to me. Death is actually absolutely necessary in our world. Without it, there is no way for nutrients, for minerals, for energy to cycle through the system. If people didn’t die, we’d just keep making more until we covered the whole planet and — what? Likewise with bacteria or rabbits or trees.
Without death, everything on the planet as we know it would eventually grind to a halt. And yet, sin is real, and death does seem terrifying to many of us. Maybe sin doesn’t create death. Maybe what sin does is make death terrible instead of peaceful, disordered instead of a part of the cycle. Maybe what sin does when it enters the picture is to make death violent. Or untimely. Or forced. Maybe what sin does is make us believe we own the components of our bodies instead of borrow them; maybe it makes us believe that eventually returning them to the system is unnatural when in fact keeping them is.
Maybe because of sin the problem isn’t death; maybe because of sin, the problem is us.
OK God, so I’m not exactly eager for my death, but when it comes, let it be what I hope my life will be too: brave, and generous, and gentle. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.