How Low Can You Go?
But wait, it gets worse. Years ago there was a boy who got up to go to school. He got dressed. He ate his breakfast. But, when he ran out to the bus stop. He didn’t get there in time. And the bus drove away. So, he got out his bike and rode that to school. But wait, it gets worse. It started to rain. And as it rained he got a flat tire. And so he had to push his bike on the side of the road. And it gets worse still. As the rain came down puddles formed on the side of the road. And a big truck came by. And the water splashed all over him. And he was wet from head to toe.
This is a pattern that we are used to in our lives. Things can go from bad to worse. But this morning it’s not objects we see going from bad to worse. It’s people. In these words, just when we think that Adam and Eve cannot go any lower, they do. In the words just before this Adam and Eve were perfect. But with Satan’s urging they both sin at the same time and rebel against their Lord and Creator. And, as we read these words, if we ask the question, “how low can you go,” it seems as if there is no bottom to that well. And so, in Genesis 3, we read these words: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8 NIV)
We read these words and our hearts yearn and reach out to ask Adam and Eve, “How low can you go?” For here in verse eight the Lord appears in the garden. And what he does next is very important. He walks here and there, back and forth.1 Well, what’s he doing there? Is he lost or something? No, he is wandering around the garden so that he can give them every opportunity to be grown-ups. He’s giving them every opportunity to approach him. But instead of owning up to their sin, what do they do? They hide. And yet, if we ask the question, “how low can you go,” we find the answer in the words that follow: “9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” (Genesis 3:9–13 NIV)
Adam and Eve, how low can you go? You do not approach your Lord and Creator. But then, when he approaches you, you cannot even confess your sin. And even worse, instead of confessing your sin, you defend it. How low can you go? Not only do you defend your sin, but you sacrifice the ones you used to love to hold onto your sin. Husband betrays wife and wife husband. Our first parents, is there no depth you will not plummet down to? Is there no sin you will not commit to save your own skin?
We ask this question of Adam and Eve. And in a way, we have every right to. But in response, our first parents could say the exact same words to us. They could say, “O children, how low can you go? When you sin, you hide instead of approaching your Lord and Creator. When you sin you defend your sin instead of confessing it. When you sin you are more than happy to sacrifice others instead of suffering yourself for you own sins. How low can you go in your love for your sin?” Those are real words our first parents can say to all of us.
But my dear fellow fallen children, there is one more person to ask that question, “how low can you go?” These words move us to ask that very same question of our Lord: “O Lord, how low can you go in your love for your sinful creatures?” Look how low our Lord goes. He comes down to the garden and wanders around wanting and waiting for them to approach him. But he could wait for an eternity and it would never happen. So he lowers himself. He comes to them. Luther reminds us that this might be the greatest gospel every preached simply because he didn’t have to. He could have destroyed Adam and Eve and started from scratch. He had every right to. But he lowers himself. He approaches them. And he does the same for us today. Through his word he approaches us. He is the one who chose us. We did not choose him. He came to us through water and word and gave us faith in him.
How low can you go, O Lord. How low can you go in your love for us. And he goes still lower. Not only does he approach them. He also confronts them and confesses their sin. This too is so lowly. This is work he should not have to do. It should be enough for him to appear in front of them and then they should pour out their sin. But they don’t. So, out of love for them, he confronts them with their sin, putting up with their sinful excuses as they defend their sins.
How low can you go, O Lord? Not only does he approach them—Not only does he confront their sin, but he also sacrifices for them. In our last words, we read: “14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”” (Genesis 3:14–15 NIV)
When it comes to sin, Adam and Eve and we too are ever-so-willing to sacrifice others to keep our own sin. But look at our Lord. Look how low he was willing to go to take away our sin. In these words he promises that there will be a “he” who will crush Satan who possessed this serpent. And we have the privilege of knowing in detail who this “he” was. The sinless Son of God left the heights of heaven and took on human flesh and blood for us. Where we failed, day after day, he did not. He approached his Father. He confronted sin. And finally, he sacrificed himself. All this he did for us, to take away our sin.
And so, we ask, “How low can you go, O Lord? How low can you go in your love?” But this morning there is one final way this question is asked. Just as we ask the Lord how low he goes in love for us, he too asks us that question. He says to each and every one of us, “How low can you go in your humility?” As forgiven children of Adam and Eve, he asks and invites us to go ever-lower in our humble love for him and others. And in our lives we see what this looks like. First of all, when it comes to sin, we approach it and confront it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the sin you committed or the sin that your fellow brother or sister in Christ committed against you. We approach and we confess. If I sin, then I rush to approach you and confess my sin so that I can be forgiven. If you sin against me, I do the exact same. I approach you and out of love for you confront you with your sin so that you would confess and be forgiven.
And with this invitation to approach and confess sin, there is also a warning. A sin that is ignored is a sin that destroys. Don’t think you are doing anyone any favor if you hurt someone with your sin and then pretend it doesn’t exist. Don’t think you are doing any good if someone sins against you and you don’t speak to them about their sin. When we do this we are following the same path as our first parents, going lower and lower in our shame and worse and worse in our sin.
But just as there is a warning, there is also a promise. When you go to your fellow Christian and speak about sin—your sin or the other person’s sin, you do not go alone. That is the great lie that Satan whispers in our ear. He tells us that when we follow what God’s word says and approach people about sin and confess that sin then not only will things go from bad to worse, but that we deserve have them go from bad to worse. But what does the Lord show in these words? He shows that he loves us and wants us to confess our sin so that it will be forgiven. And what does he say? He says, “I have crushed my Son in your place. So I will never crush you.”
And so the Lord asks us that question, “How low can you go?” How low can you go in humility? How low can you go in setting aside your pride and confess your sin? How low can you go in setting aside your embarrassment as you speak to someone else about the sin they committed against you? With this promise that we are not alone and that our sins are forgiven, we can lower ourselves again and again and confront and confess sin.
How low can you go? This is a question we ask Adam and Eve about their sin. It’s a question we ask our Lord about his love. And finally, it’s a question he asks us about our humility. Amen.