Our story in Genesis picks up just after Adam and Eve have eaten of the forbidden fruit. They have done the one thing God has told them not to and they are ashamed. Aware that they’ve done something wrong and afraid of God’s punishment, they go into hiding.
God calls out to Adam in verse 9, “Where are you?” Many people have wondered why is it that God has to ask where they are hiding. Doesn’t God know everything? Wouldn’t God know where to find them? The Psalmist asks the question of God in Psalm 139, “Where can I go from you spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” The Psalmist knows there is no place to hide from God.
Then the play the blame game. The woman you gave me made me do it. The serpent made me do it. Blaming becomes a wicked pattern. We blame someone else, even the victims of our actions, rather than accept responsibility. When someone is arrested for violence against women or children, you can hear the blaming, “If they hadn’t egged me on. If she wouldn’t have worn that blouse. She asked for it.” It’s sad that rather than accepting responsibility for his own part; Adam points the blame to Eve.
Of course, Eve does little better. You remember the saying that was popular back in the 70’s; “The devil made me do it.”? This is Eve’s response. The temptation was there. I couldn’t resist. I had no choice. Of course she had a choice, just as Adam did. We all have choices, and each choice we make comes with a different set of consequences. Often there are great pressures to choose a certain way. Part of the difficulty in our world today is that there are so many choices to make. We are tempted to let others make our choices for us. Choice itself becomes a burden.
There is great misery that comes with hiding from God. We become separated from the Source of abundant life. Fortunately, God does not leave us alone in the misery of our hiding. God sends Christ, our Redeemer, a light in our darkness to call us out of hiding. In the story of the man who wants to inherit eternal life, we don’t get a clear sense of his sin. He has obeyed the commandments, done all that anyone could ask of him. Hearing him talk, you’d think he was a model citizen, and we have no reason to doubt that he was. And yet he still finds himself hiding behind something. What must I do to inherit eternal life? He asks Jesus.
Jesus challenges him directly, “Sell what you have and give to the poor. Then, come follow me.” The Bible says the man was shocked and went away grieving.
When I read this story the first time, I got up from my desk, and desperately ran to Mom, half out of breath, asking her repeatedly, “Are we rich, Mom, are we rich?” She assured me that we had nothing to worry about as far as that goes. The Bible goes on to reassure us, in Mark 10:27 that for God all things are possible.
But this story of the wealthy man who goes away grieving rather than letting go of his possessions and following Jesus can teach us something no matter how rich we are. We may be hiding behind any number of things…the security of our wealth, our position in the community, our insistence that we aren’t good enough, that we can’t possibly meet the demands of the Gospel. Many things might prevent us from coming out of hiding. Our fear that the punishment might be too great. Images of God as only angry ruler bent on revenge. Ideas that forgiveness is all well and good, but can’t possible meet me where I am.
The good news is that in Christ, God comes to us where we are. In Christ, we are found. God meets us in our hiding and gives us the chance to respond, to be responsible for our actions and receive forgiveness where we’ve fallen short. God calls out to us, “Where are you?” May each of us respond, as Isaiah does, with the simple words, “Here I am, Lord. Here I am.”