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The Beginning of Disconnection

September 12, 2021 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Connected: a series about how to connect with others

Passage: Genesis 3:1–3:13

Horizontal disconnection is the fruit of vertical disconnection.

In many superhero movies, you see the origin for the superhero. The first Iron Man movie shows how Tony Stark became Iron Man. The Spiderman movies show how Peter Parker is bitten by a special spider and gets his powers to become Spiderman. Batman Begins shows how Bruce Wayne became Batman.

There’s also a trend these days to tell the origin and backstory for villains. Included in most superhero movies is a short story about how the villain comes into the story. But now there are whole movies and even sequels dedicated to the origin stories of villains. When you watched Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent was just the magical lady who turns into a dragon and is a threat to the main characters. We never really asked, “How did Maleficent get that way? What happened in her life to make her who she is?” Now there are two movies - Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil - that tell her backstory. They tell the story of her pain that shaped her into the villain we know.

When we watched The Wizard of Oz, we didn’t think much about how the wicked witch of the west got that name. What made her wicked? Why is she from the west? And why is her skin green? The musical Wicked tells the story of how Elfebah became the wicked witch of the west. In fact, in that story, she is the victim of a corrupt system that she refused to be a part of.

In 2019, the movie Joker was released, telling the origin story of Batman’s famous nemesis. This year, the movie Cruella was released, telling the origin story of the villain in 101 Dalmations. How did Smeagol become Gollum? How did Tom Riddle become Voldemort? What led them to be who they are? Were they always this way? Were they always evil, destructive, and power-hungry?

We can ask the personal question to ourselves: “Why am I this way? How did I become the person I am today? If someone were to tell the origin story of my life, what would it reveal about why I am who I am and why I do what I do?”

Today we are starting a seven-week sermon series on relationships called “Connected”. It’s about how to have better relationships by learning to connect - learning to connect with your spouse, your kids, your family and friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, and anyone else in your life.

In the first two sermons, we will be setting a foundation. The four sermons after that are the core of this series. They are the “how” of connecting with others. Those four sermons will each focus on a message every person longs to hear. These four messages were developed by an organization called Connected Families and I asked their permission to use them. Katie and I went through their parenting course and we have been greatly helped by these four messages not just in parenting but in all relationships. The seventh sermon will conclude this series with practical ways to become people who connect.

This topic of relationships is so important. Because all of life is relationships! We were made for them. Most of the commands in the Bible are about relationships, either with God or with other people. In the Ten Commandments, the first half deals with our relationship with God and the second half deals with our relationship with others. Jesus said the two greatest commandments are about relationships: loving God and loving others. All of life is relationships! We were made to connect with both God and other people.

And yet, relationships are difficult. Many times we do not connect with God or with other people. We feel disconnected. We have been deeply wounded in relationships. Our greatest pain comes from other people. This brings us to our topic for today. If God wired and designed us for connection, why do we experience so much disconnection? If we were made for relationships, why are relationships so hard? Why do we hurt each other so much? Why are there so many broken relationships in our lives and in our world? Why do human beings have such a hard time connecting with one another? How did it all go wrong?

The answer is found in our origin stories. Each of us have two origin stories. We each have our own unique, personal origin story that explains why we are the way we are. Throughout your life, and especially while you were growing up, you learned expectations for how relationships work and how to relate to others. In a way, the important relationships in your life have programmed into you how to do relationships by giving you two things: a lens through which to see all relationships and a toolbox for relating to others.

Your first origin story is your unique, personal origin story that explains why you are the way you are. Your other origin story is the one we all have in common: the one universal, shared origin story that explains why we are the way we are. It’s the big, overarching story of humanity. How did we get this way? Why do we do what we do? It’s all explained in the first chapters of the Bible. This origin story explains where disconnection in relationships came from. It explains why relationships are so hard. It explains why so many of us have broken relationships. It tells us where it all started.

As we begin this series, We are going to start with a scene we will all recognize. We are going to look at Genesis chapter 3. Whether you are familiar with the Bible or not, you will recognize this scene from your own life. You’ve lived it. You’ve experienced it. You’ve done it. It’s been done to you.

How It’s Supposed to Be (Genesis 1-2)

Genesis 1 and 2 describes a world at rest where everything is at should be. God made a world of goodness and delight. Then he made a man and he made a garden for the man to live in. This was home. God was present with the man in the garden and the man’s job was to work and keep the garden. The man’s name was Adam and God gave him a purpose. Then God gave him a partner. God made a woman named Eve to be the man’s companion.

God created a world of connection. Adam and Eve were connected with each other. Chapter 2 verse 25 describes this connection: “And the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). Adam and Eve were also connected with God. Chapter 3 verse 8 describes this connection: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Gen 3:8). God walking with them. “Naked and not ashamed” with each other. This is how God meant it to be. No walls, no masks, no hiding, no pretending we are better than we are, no presenting the best parts of ourselves and hiding the worst parts, no barriers, no broken relationships, no disconnection. This description of the beginning of humanity is a picture of how life was supposed to be: with God, with each other, connected.

Where did it all go wrong? If God created a world with no walls between him and humanity, how did we get to a place where we feel so disconnected from God? Even the most religious of us can feel relationally disconnected from God. Why do we feel like there is so much distance between us and God? If God created us for connection with him, then why do we feel so disconnected?

And if God created a world with no walls between people, why do we find ourselves in a world where broken relationships are everywhere? Why do we find it so difficult to connect with other people? Why do we put up walls and wear masks to protect ourselves? Why do we hide our true selves from other people? Why do we feel so ashamed of who we are that we don’t dare let anyone know the real us?

Genesis 3 gives us the answer.

How We Got Here (Genesis 3)

Genesis 1 and 2 describes a world where relationships are the way they should be, a world of relational connection between each other and between us and God. But that world no longer exists. We are familiar with a world of disconnection. We are used to a world of walls and barriers between us and a world where we wear masks to hide who we really are. The world we inhabit is one of broken relationships and disconnection.

The world we know is a Genesis 3 world. Look at Genesis 3 with me and you will see the world we now live in as well as what started it all. Verse 1 says:

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. (Genesis 3:1a)

This is no ordinary snake. For the ancient readers, the snake was a symbol of chaos and that is exactly what this character causes: it leads God’s world into chaos. This is an agent of chaos in the form of a serpent, later identified as Satan.

Verse 1 says the serpent was crafty and crafty people achieve their aims by deceitful or indirect methods and that’s how the serpent leads God’s world into chaos. He works through lies, deception, and half-truths. Remember this: disconnection from God always starts with deception - with a lie. And this is what happens in the second part of verse 1:

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1b)

There is surprise and disbelief in his question: “Did God actually tell you that you can’t eat from any of the trees in this amazing garden? Did he really tell you that?” The implied accusation is, “God is kind of harsh and strict isn’t he? He’s a bit of a party pooper to not let you eat from these trees. I can’t believe he’d tell you such a thing.” The woman responds in verse 2:

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:2-3)

In the previous two chapters, God created a good world with one prohibition: do not define good and evil for yourselves. The choice to do so is represented by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Whether there was a physical tree or not, the point is clear: this tree is a constant reminder to Adam and Eve that they are not God, that they are not in charge. They don’t decide what is good and what is bad, right or wrong. God decides that. Humanity is not meant to define good and evil, right and wrong, on our own terms. As our Creator and King, it is God’s job to decide what is good and bad. To eat from the tree would be to reject God’s kingship over them. It would be rejecting God’s authority. It would be telling God, “We don’t want you in charge anymore. We want to be in charge. We think we can do a better job.”

Without even mentioning the tree that God said is off limits, the serpent has got the woman thinking about it and talking about it. And this is often how Satan or the devil. He doesn’t just say, “Do something bad that God told you not to do.” No, he comes in through the back door stealthily. The serpent’s opening question portrayed God as overly strict. “God really doesn’t want you to eat from any of these trees?” The woman corrects him, but his portrayal of God as a strict party pooper has already infiltrated her thinking because she says, “No, we may eat of any tree except one. We can’t even touch that one.” God said nothing about touching it, so the woman has added more prohibition than God originally gave. The serpent is beginning to drive a wedge between her and God.

The serpent responds in verse 4:

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Now that he has got her discussing the tree, the serpent directly contradicts what God has said: “If you eat of that tree, you won’t die like God said you would. In fact, God doesn’t want you to eat from it because he knows that if you do, your eyes will be opened and you will be just like him. You’ll know good and evil just like he does.”

We’ve already been told that humans were made in God’s image and likeness to reflect what he is like. She doesn’t need to disobey God to become like God. But the serpent is telling her that being like God isn’t enough: you need to be God. The lie here is that being human isn’t enough: you need to be more than human, you need to be God. The lie is that true fulfillment, happiness, satisfaction, freedom, and joy will be found outside of God’s boundaries and limits for them. You have to disobey God in order to get what you desire.

The fuel of this temptation is doubt: doubt about God’s goodness and doubt about sin’s badness. The message of the serpent is: God isn’t that good and sin isn’t that bad. The serpent is saying, “God isn’t that good. He doesn’t really have your best interests in mind. The only reason God doesn’t want you to eat from that tree is because he knows you’ll become like him if you do. He is holding out on you. He is trying to keep something for himself. He’s withholding what you really want. God’s ‘nos’ are not for your good. What would really be ‘good’ is for you to be ‘god’. Maybe God has given you good things, but he is keeping the best for himself. ” That’s doubt about God’s goodness. But the serpent is also saying, “Sin isn’t that bad. You can disobey God without consequences. Nothing bad will happen. It’s not really bad to eat from that tree. You won’t really die. In fact, it will be good for you.” Basically, God is against you and sin is good for you. God isn’t that good and sin isn’t that bad.

This doubt leads to a desire to do what God has forbidden. Verse 6 says:

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

From deception to doubt to desire to disobedience. The woman decides to define good and bad on her own terms instead of God’s. God labeled the tree “bad”, but she sees it as “good” and desires it. Disobedience begins with deception about what’s true, then leads to doubting God’s goodness and sin’s badness, and finally seeing something that’s bad as good and desirable. Because she doubts what she shouldn’t doubt, she desires what she shouldn’t desire, and she does what she shouldn’t do. And her husband, Adam, joins her.

Hiding from each other

What are the effects? Verse 7 says:

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:7)

This relationship which was once defined by no shame and total openness has now been disrupted by shame. Being naked in front of each other now makes them feel exposed so they cover up. A wedge has been driven between them.

Consider this: what about yourself do you keep hidden? What do you hide from others and how do you hide it? What are you ashamed of that you don’t want others to see? How would you fill in this blank: “If they knew [blank] about me, they would never love me, accept me, like me.” We tend to hide our mistakes, our failures, our sin, our weaknesses, our neediness. That is not the way things are supposed to be.

Hiding from God

The first result is hiding from each other. The second result is hiding from God. A wedge is driven between humanity and God. Verse 8 says:

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

Out of his love, God provided the trees for God. Now they use the good things God gave them in love to hide from God. Does that sound familiar? Instead of receiving the good things of life as loving and caring gifts from him, we use them to disconnect from him. God calls out to the man: where are you? Is God asking you that? What would you say? The man answers:

“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10)

God answers:

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11)

Then the blame game starts. The man says:

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12)

Even though the man is talking with God, he’s still hiding. He doesn’t own what he’s done. He doesn’t take responsibility. He blames the woman and even blames God. “The woman that you gave me.” Then God turns to the woman and the blame game continues.

“What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)

The man blames the woman and God. The woman blames the serpent. The two people who actually sinned never own up to anything. “I yelled at you because you yelled at me. I’m harsh because I had a bad day. I’m really tired so that’s why I’m being impatient with you. If I don’t do this, my boss will be mad at me. Sorry I’m late, traffic was bad.” Does this sound familiar? Is someone or something else always to blame for your actions and behavior? Are your actions and attitude always someone else’s fault and not your own? We are notoriously bad at owning up to what we have done. We scramble to find someone or something else to blame. We know we’ve fallen short, but we can’t be the reason we’ve fallen short.

God told them what would happen if they ate from the tree. If they decided to define good and bad for themselves, if they decided they wanted to be in charge, if they decided they’d like to be God instead of trusting and loving God, then, he said, they would surely die. Did they physically drop dead at that moment? No, but Adam and Eve did die that day. Replace God’s words that say “you shall surely die” with “you will be relationally disconnected from me, the Giver of life.” God sends them out of the garden, away from his presence. They are separated, alienated, and estranged from God. They are disconnected.

This is an ancient story that both names the symptoms of our relational sickness and diagnoses the root cause. This is where disconnected all started and it has continued until today. If God created us for connection, how did we contract a disease that grows disconnection in our lives? Here’s the big idea for today: Horizontal disconnection is the fruit of vertical disconnection. In other words, your disconnection with people is the fruit, result, and outcome of disconnection with God. Horizontal disconnection began with vertical disconnection. Disconnection from each other begins with disconnection from God. This is what we see with Adam and Eve. They first disconnected from God then they were disconnected from each other.

All our problems come from trying to be more than human - from trying to replace God and be God. And disconnection will always be part of our lives if we continue living without God. And where does disconnection with God start? Our disconnection from each other is the fruit of disconnection from God. And our disconnection from God is the fruit of a distorted view of God, ourselves, and sin. That’s where the serpent started. These three beliefs were introduced: 1) God isn’t that good, 2) sin isn’t that bad, 3) you need to be more than human.

Adam and Eve embraced those three beliefs and abandoned the belief that God is good, sin is bad, and we were made in God’s image. We always live out of a set of beliefs. The question is, are those beliefs true or good for us?

While there are three sets of beliefs that introduce disconnection into our world, the first and primary belief that begins this disconnection is a distorted view of God. Adam and Eve don’t see God as he truly is. A distorted view of God leads to disconnection from God then disconnection from one another. So here’s what we learn from this origin story:

  • Our horizontal disconnection is the fruit of vertical disconnection. This tells us that if we want horizontal connection, we need to restore our vertical connection.
  • Vertical disconnection began with a distorted view of God. This tells us that if we want vertical connection, we need to restore a true view of God. The way back to connection in our lives with both God and others is to see God as he truly is so that we love and trust him.

This is what we will be seeking to do all throughout this series. We address our horizontal disconnection by first addressing our vertical disconnection. Why don’t we connect with others? Because we are disconnected from God. Why are we disconnected from God? Because we have a distorted view of God. We have been deceived into doubting God’s good character.

When you are in a mall or at an amusement park or something, you might find a big map and the first thing you look for is an arrow that says, “You are here.” Why? Because the best way to get where you want to go is to know where you are. You can’t just look for where you want to go. That isn’t enough information to get you there. You need to know where you are in order to map out a path to where you want to go. The first step in any journey is to know where you are now.

The Bible is soberingly honest about where we are. We are not in a good place. The Bible pulls no punches. We are in a mess of our own making. Our biggest problem is ourselves. Today is a diagnosis sermon. The goal is to gain awareness. This week, watch for the patterns and behaviors of disconnection we see in this passage. Take note of when you cover up, hide, and blame.

  • What don’t you want other people to know about?
  • What are you ashamed of?
  • Which parts of yourself are you hiding?
  • What behaviors do you justify quietly to yourself?
  • What behaviors do you defend loudly to others?
  • When does your internal defense lawyer get activated?
  • Who’s fault is it that you’re in a bad mood?

These are symptoms of disconnection. These are unhealthy patterns we’ve learned from our origin stories. In each of our personal origin stories is a thread that takes us back to the big origin story of Genesis 3.

While the Bible is soberingly honest about the bad news of where we are, the Bible is always overwhelmingly hopeful about where we can end up. We can be connected with God. We can be connected with each other. But the first step in the journey is knowing where we are now.

We live in a Genesis 3 world, full of sin, disconnection, and broken relationships. That’s the bad news. Even though this is the world we know, we all long for it to be different. We all long for a Genesis 2 world. We want connection. We want connection with God. We want connection with other people. Deep down, we know it’s supposed to be different and we want it to be different. We want to be open with others. We want to be known. We want to live without shame.

On our own, we have never and will never move past this ancient story. No matter how many social media platforms there are to facilitate connection, no matter how many coffee shops create cozy places for talking, no matter how many advances in psychology and therapy, we will never move beyond Genesis 3. It will never go away. This event has affected every human being who’s ever lived because it infected us with a relational disease that we cannot cure on our own.

The good news is that God is calling us to a renewed Genesis 1 and 2 state of life. God wants to remove our sin, reconnect us, and heal our relationships. This is not the end of the story. In fact, it’s only the beginning. And the best part is that it really isn’t up to us. He has done all the work necessary for that to happen. All we need to do is receive it from him. The good news is that God sent his Son, Jesus, to become a human to undo all the disconnection we have between God and each other. He came to remove the wedge between us, to break down all the walls and barriers. He came to take away our guilt and shame so we don’t have to hide anymore. And he did it by dying in our place for all the ways we cause disconnection. He is the way and he shows us the way back to connection.

More in Connected: a series about how to connect with others

October 24, 2021

Becoming People Who Connect

October 17, 2021

"You Are Responsible for Your Actions"

October 10, 2021

"You Are Called and Capable"