Why Our Desire Cannot be for the Church

To the woman He said…
“…your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”  Genesis 3:16 (NASB)

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:6-7 (NASB)

serpent-and-appleI’m meditating this week on Genesis 3 and the “fall of man”. In my study, I tripped over Genesis 3:16, where God pronounces the “curse” on the woman, saying that, as a result of her sin, “your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” It seemed odd to me…the first part, that is. How, exactly, is “your desire shall be for your husband” a bad thing? Because I am not a Hebrew scholar, my first attempt to understand what exactly it means was to simply check a variety of English translations. Unfortunately, except for a couple, most of them translate it the same way: your desire shall be for your husband. Again, what could be wrong with that?

But here is where some light gets shed…and where we learn (again) about the limits of language to capture some concepts: Genesis 4:7 has very similar language, but the intent is much clearer. When God warns Cain about the bitterness raging in his heart, he says, “…if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” And so, we see what are apparently similar Hebrew words and phrases being translated the same way. In Cain’s case, “sin’s desire is for you” and in Eve’s case,”your desire shall be for your husband”. Both cases, then, imply a desire to control or to manipulate. I won’t go so far as to call it “lost in translation”, but it definitely warrants more than just a quick reading, wouldn’t you agree? As described by God, the consequences of Eve’s sin include a twist or brokenness in the relationship between man and woman…one not intended by the Creator, but nonetheless made sure by the fall of man. She will want to control him, and in response, he will rule over her…not by God’s design, but as a consequence of sin.

As I bring that picture forward several thousand years, and then zoom out to include the broader relationship between me (the individual) and God’s church, I see it just as clearly. I recognize the same sinful desire to control on my part in that relationship. “My desire is for…” my church. I desire to control it for my own comfort. I desire to control it for my own sinful pride. It becomes all about my wants and my desires. I desire the music to make me feel a certain way. I desire the preaching and teaching to be a certain way. I desire the budget to be handled just so. I desire a certain level of programming and just the right buildings. I desire, I desire, I desire, I desire, I desire…

Oh, I may not say it that way. I am, after all, an experienced churchman. I will couch it in spiritual terms and will frame it in terms of what God wants or expects. I may even use (or abuse) scripture to support my opinion. But it won’t be an honest interpretation of scripture…one arrived at humbly bowing before the Lord and letting go of my own desires. Rather, it will be some twisted version of scripture, shaped just right to fit what I want. I can know this because my exploration of the issue (whatever it may be) BEGAN with what I desire. My own desire became my hypothesis which I set out to “prove” with scripture. And yet, all I really manage to prove is God’s proclamation of the consequences of sin in the world: that my desires will be for…

We can do better. We can BE better. Surely, being a part of God’s community, His “church”, means a daily discipline of letting go of everything I want in order to pursue what God genuinely wants for me and for you and for His church. And like the monkey trying in vain to pull the apple out of the jar while his fist is still around it, we simply cannot ever really know or experience what God wants for us as long as we are holding so tightly to want we want. I cannot know the power and authority God intends for His church as long as I make it about what I want…as long as “my desire is for…” the church.

My prayer this week for me and for my church, and for you and for your church, is that God will humble us all with regard to the things we want, and will cause us to let go of those things in order to pursue what He wants. Because what God wants for us…is more amazing than anything we can imagine!

© Blake Coffee

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