The fall (Genesis 3) is a key passage in the Bible, and Christian thought. After re-reading it recently, I was struck by the word ‘curse’. The serpent and the soil are cursed. Technically, Adam’s curse is indirect, he is burdened with having to work hard because the soil is cursed. The word curse is not used in relation to Eve. But in the next chapter, Cain is directly cursed.

I am not used to thinking of God as someone who actively curses – who wishes ill on others! Furthermore, I am more used to thinking of the fall as condemnation (we are condemned to die because of Adam’s sin – Romans 5), but Genesis uses the word curse, not condemnation.

Biblical curses are the opposite of blessing. In the Garden of Eden, everything is good, and blessed. That is to say, it exists under a state of God’s provision and protection. God sustains his creation in this blessed state. When God curses, it is not the wishing of evil onto people or things, but the removal of his provision and protection.

When people do not have God’s protection and provision over them, they are forced to look elsewhere. And the only other option is Satan, who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). So the net effect of God removing his protection, is that one comes under the influence of Satan, which is a cursed state.

This brings us back to the consequences of sin and the fall. Yes, sin brings condemnation, which requires grace, atonement and forgiveness. We Western Protestants appreciate this. But there is another insight here, something closer to African (power-fear) spirituality.

To dishonour God by disobeying him is to step out from under God's protection and blessing. It is trust that we know better, to imagine that we can provide for and protect ourselves. In fact, we cannot. Away from God, we are now susceptible to the work of the devil. Only Jesus brings life to the full. Satan brings us only towards destruction. Life away from God is cursed.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister


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