Alternative Thinking about Adam and Eve
Here is some alternative thinking about how to approach teaching the story of Adam and Eve to children.
Traditionally, Sunday School lessons tends to focus on these things in the story of Adam and Eve:
- Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
- Forbidden Fruit
- The Serpent
- Defining "sin" and "Original Sin" (the origin of sin).
- Portraying Eve as the temptress.
- Portraying God as "the punisher" (throwing them out of paradise).
- Re-enacting the story with a focus on the first parts (garden, tree, fruit, blame, serpent) because they have a lot of dialog and visuals (as opposed to the second part of the story: God in the evening breeze, bushes, clothes, cast out).
- Craft projects that recreate the "props" in the story (apples, trees, serpents)
(1) Probably because many of the above present us with great visuals, dialog, and drama.
And perhaps... (2) Because most adults don't remember the second half of the story as well as the first.
But what a missed opportunity this traditional approach is. By focusing on "the apple" part of the story, we tend to turn the story of Adam and Eve into a cartoonish morality play, instead of a story about our sin, how God responds, and our relationship with God.
Look again at this story...
Read the story as if it were a parable.....
The first part with serpent/forbidden fruit is merely a "setup" for the CENTRAL episode: when God comes to FIND us and talk to us about our sin. (Think of it, for example, as what the Father might have done if the Prodigal had not come home!)
When we focus on GOD in the story (like you would do in a Jesus parable), we come to understand that of course, God already knew they (we) had sinned when he came looking for them in the evening breeze. He waited, then he comes calling their (our) names, giving us the opportunity to step forward. God knows where we are and what we've done.
This realization SHIFTS the CENTER of the story aware from the (predictable) disobedience, and towards God's response to our sin, and what WE are supposed to do after we sin.
Synopsis: God comes looking for Adam and Eve in the garden during the evening breeze (cool of the day), and not with punishment in mind, but calling their names (knowing where they are all the time, and already knowing what they've done!). Their response? Hiding. And when God calls them out they try to avoid responsibility. THAT is when God gets mad. But the story doesn't end there! God makes them clothes, and goes with them into banishment.
Most kids and teachers will only focus on "getting punished" and completely overlook the fact that before God banishes them, he makes them clothing to cover their shame, and then God goes WITH them into the world. (Recall that Jesus promises to take our burdens from us and give us rest?)
In fact, you could say this is primarily a story about "God Sticking With Us"(Emmanuel). God sticks with us even when we try to hide, and goes with us even as we lead difficult lives brought on by our sin. It's a gospel: sin and salvation, ...just like the parable of the Prodigal Son is the Gospel in miniature.
Questions to ask students:
- Why do we try to hide our sins from God?
- What are the consequences of sin? (even forgiven sins have consequences)
- When we mess up, how should we respond to God?
- How does God help us deal with our sin?
Applying these insights to come up with new ideas for teaching:
Resist quickie art projects that merely create obvious and traditional "props" from the story (apple, serpent, tree). They miss the main point of the story. Instead, think of how you can express hiding and stepping forward when God calls you out. For example....a stepping stone. Or how about a soap project that reminds us to "come clean" before God.
Avoid drama activities that focus primarily on the fruit and serpent episode. They do have some fun dialog, but they are only the INTRO to the real story: thinking you can hide your sins from God, and coming clean before God. How do people hide from God today? Who do people blame for their problems?
Avoid games that turn the story into a trivia contest. Instead, consider focusing on getting this rather involved story in the correct order, so that they remember more than just "the apple."
What do people hide behind? (practice avoidance)
Too busy, pride, "it's not my fault," sports/entertainment that keeps me from having to deal with problems. It's certainly the basis for a skit or two. Perhaps this is a wall that could be built and bricks labeled.
PRAYER is a major help in "stepping out" before God, confessing, asking for help, and accepting God's covering grace over our shame. Perhaps this could progression of ideas could be physically and visually expressed in a GUIDED-PRAYER-WALK-TRAIL, or prayer labyrinth-making-walking activity.
Teach the verbal and non-verbal language of confession and reconciliation so that kids know what to say and how to ACT when pride tries to tie their tongue. Defiance has a posture. Lying has a face. Blame has a tone. Admitting your mistakes has certain words that make it more heart-felt. Peace has a way of standing. Humility and Healing has a voice. etc Practicing these would not only be fun, but instructive!
Writing~Acting Out a New Ending to Their (our) Story
- What should Adam and Eve done when tempted? How would that dialog go?
- What if they had stood up and confessed when God called their name? How would the story have been different?
- What does God say to the children of Adam and Eve (us) as we labor in this life?
What is Original Sin? -a kid friendly explanation
Jews and Christians believe that all humans have a flaw in our character that causes us to make wrong choices. They call this "original sin." We WILL do what we know is wrong and then we WILL try and avoid blame. Jesus and the Apostles taught that we cannot get rid of this flaw, we can only be forgiven for it, get help resisting it, and work with God to heal the brokenness that sin creates in the world.
But let me reiterate: if you make your lessons about "original sin" you have missed the point of the story.
It's a story about Original Grace.
God sticking with us as we go out into the world.