Adam and Eve were created as children. Luke says that Adam was a son of God (Lk. 3:38). He woke up in the image of His Father. He and His wife were children of God, bearing His likeness, a family resemblance (Gen. 1:26-28). Regardless of age or physical maturity, the fact that God created Adam and Eve in His image means that they are the created children of God. God created His kids from the dust of the earth and breathed His life into them. A little unorthodox perhaps, probably a bit dramatic, but there they are in the garden a few minutes old, stretching their arms and legs and practicing breathing, noticing the differences between their naked bodies like a couple of young siblings in a bathtub. Though Adam and Eve are physically mature, they are kids. They are newborns. They are adolescents capable of having sex and making more people like themselves – in fact, God their Father explicitly encourages this sort of activity (Gen. 1:28). But like newborns, God nurses them in a garden flowing with milk and honey, trees full of life, and one tree that was actually named that. All that they need for life is provided. When they are hungry, food magically appears. When they are thirsty, there is a river full to the brim like a never ending sippy cup. Their Father has thought of everything, and His angelic nurses are constantly providing.
In other words, the Bible begins as a fairy tale. The details are fantastical and garish. It’s a story about children for children. The universe is spoken into existence, the true and epic nursery rhyme of a God the Christian Church calls Trinity: the Father who speaks the Word while hovering over the waters, suspended by the glory of the Spirit, and all in the space of six days. Add a few bazillion stars and insects, throw in sea monsters, food that grows out of the ground, and hundreds of varieties of colorful balls full of juice magically manufactured, and Adam and Eve wake up in a garden which might as well be an over-the-top exuberant, cosmic nursery. This is the mind blowing surplus of an excessively jovial and overly doting Father, a world bubbling and popping with prizes and presents and gifts and colors and smells and tastes and sounds. The universe is a nursery meticulously prepared for God’s children to play in.
Here in this garden, this kindergarten, God invites His children to play with Him. God creates and names things. He places all the pieces on the board, setting the limits, defining the terms. There is out of bounds, there is base, tag you’re it. And one of the central games in this cosmic nursery is the game of family, a play called marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) Here is where we will play; here Adam and Eve, the original children were invited to play with their Father, to reveal His eternal youth, His eternal playfulness. Here is where the stories will happen; here is where we will live and we will have adventures together. Of course it is a true game; we are playing for keeps. But that does not make it any less playful. In order to play the game you must seriously believe the game. You must have faith; you must have the faith of children; this is serious make-believe, a cosmic game of dress up.
You know the story; you know how our first parents, our first children rebelled, how they threw away the gift of childhood, how they rejected the rules of their Father, how they were driven from the garden and cursed with death. In fellowship with their Eternal Father, they shared in His endless life, His endless youth. In fellowship with their Eternal Father, they were eternal children, always having life before them, always just beginning, with possibilities and freedom, stories to be told and adventures to be lived. Life was a true a game, a game for keeps, and this included the choice of disobedience, the choice not to play by the rules, not to play the game. So we chose to grow up, we chose to become old. We chose not to play the game of life with our Father.
But in God’s endless mercy and playfulness, in God’s wisdom and eternal youth, He sent a Child to redeem us from our old age, from our death and dying. He came to free us from our wheel chairs and Alzheimer’s and aching bodies. He came to give us life, unending life. In other words, Jesus came to make us children again.
Paul understands this as he writes the Ephesians: Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2). Paul has just finished reminding the Ephesians that they have been re-created according to God in true righteousness and holiness. He has exhorted them to put off the “old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Paul says to throw down the walker of sin, to get rid of the dentures of the lusts of the flesh. Don’t act like you live in the nursing home of death. Instead they are to be renewed in the spirit by putting on the new man. They are to put on childishness, put on youthful simplicity, put on kindness, tenderness, forgiveness. Paul says that because they have been made alive, because they have been re-created, because they have been given the Spirit of Jesus, and placed in the garden kingdom of the Church, they are now children and they are called to live like newly created children, like Adam and Eve in the garden, like newborns only having life ahead of them.
Paul says therefore be imitators of God as dear children, as beloved children, like Jesus who imitated His father, and played His life fearlessly, laying His life down, entrusting Himself to His Father who possesses the power of endless life within Himself, who possesses the power of endless childhood within Himself. It’s no accident that Paul goes from talking about being newly created, putting off the old man and putting on the new man, walking as children of light in the power of the Spirit to talking about marriage, talking about the roles of husbands and wives.
In our day, the idea of a husband being the head of his wife or the wife submitting to her own husband is frequently maligned. It is true that these roles are frequently misunderstood and they are frequently misunderstood by the same people who claim to be practicing them. Some of their greatest champions make it look bad. But we should not shy away from the Word of God because some people abuse it and twist it to their own shame. We should take it up all the more enthusiastically, praying for the grace to play the game of marriage well. And that is what it is. Paul has just exhorted the Ephesians to act like children, to walk as children of light in the Spirit. You have been reborn, re-created as newborns, like Adam and Eve in the garden of the Church in this world. You are invited to play with your Father, and Paul says, here are the rules of the game, here are your dress-ups, tag you’re it. And the only question is whether we will receive the game with playful hearts or not. Will we receive the gift of life, the gift of the Spirit, the gift of childhood with an appropriately thankful and childish joy.
Nathan, you are being called today by your Heavenly Father to play the part of a husband. This is a true game, and you are playing for keeps. But if you embrace the youthfulness that God gives, you will have His endless life flowing through yours. You will have, by the working of the Spirit, His eternal youth flowing through your body. The command is straightforward and simple and yet it is the difference between playing well and playing badly. You are called to love your wife. Love her with a childish enthusiasm. Love her physically, love her emotionally, love her materially, love her in every way possible. And love her by imitating the childishness of God, the childishness revealed in Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us. Nathan, you will get tired. You will get tired from long days at school, long days at work, and eventually you will get tired because your body is growing old. But faith looks to Jesus for an endless supply of energy, an endless store of youthful excitement and imagination. Do this as Jesus did, with joy set before you. Do it like a child with the prize in your mind. Die for her because she is your glory. And as you serve her, minister to her needs, and daily lay yourself down for her, she is your glorious crown. Just as Jesus is in the process of presenting His bride to Himself, all glorious, having no spot or wrinkle, so husbands are called to love their own wives as their own bodies, as their own glory, as their own crown of joy. You are being invited into this play.
Julie, our culture hates a beautiful and wise woman who submits to her husband gladly. And the reason it hates this is because it is immensely powerful. But in the wisdom of God, this is a power that looks weak. It is a strength that looks foolish. It looks childish. It seems quaint and old fashioned and juvenile. But one way we might respond is by laughing and saying, “of course it is!” Just to give you fair warning, this will probably make them even more angry with you. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are mighty (1 Cor. 1:27). In a minute you will take your wedding vow, and you will promise among other things to obey your husband. This is not a craven subservience. This is not the obedience of a slave. This is the obedience a queen owes her king. This is the obedience that Jesus the Eternal Son offered His Eternal Father. And this obedience and respect and submission is your part in the play. This is your glory, your beauty, your loveliness, your wisdom, your power. You have been re-created as a new Eve, and you are called to embrace this childhood, this eternal youthfulness by relying on the same Spirit of God, walking as a child of light.
Nathan and Julie, you have your lives ahead of you, and in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have endless life ahead of you. You have been begotten again by the Spirit of God to an Eternal Childhood. Your bodies will grow old and die under the curse of sin, but Christ is Risen, and therefore, our Child King has won the victory. He has turned even death into a game, a play. One day both of you and all of us will fall asleep. But we will only be pretending. And Jesus will come with a wink and nod, and he will look around at all the sad faces and he will say with a boyish grin, ‘Don’t be sad; they’re only sleeping.’ And then he will take you each by the hand and all of us that have laid down in the ground with you, and we will wake up with new bodies, eternal children, to laugh and play and run and explore forever and ever, unto ages of ages.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!