Humanity was created by God and for God, but the first man and woman acted contrary to their Creator’s will. And what happens when we use something in a way for which it was never intended? It breaks. It doesn’t quite work right anymore. Consider the smartphone in your pocket. That device can do many incredible things, but it wasn’t designed to drop on a hard floor or take a swim in the washing machine. Drop it on the floor or wash it with your laundry, and chances are, it’ll never work as well as it did before.
Genesis 3 tells the story of man’s fall this way:
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”
“No! You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6)
Look closely, and you’ll notice that everyone involved in this original sin is twisting and distorting human identity.
First of all, God created Adam and Eve, not the other way around, yet the serpent is tempting Eve to question God. “Did God really say—? Don’t believe that for a moment. God knows that when you eat from the forbidden tree your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (Ge 3:1, 5). Sadly, Eve forgets she is like God because she was made in his image. But she’s only an image, a reflection of God. She’s not God, and she has no right to question or contradict him.
Second, notice the twisting of male and female here—husband and wife. The serpent doesn’t approach Adam, who is the head of his wife, Eve doesn’t consult Adam before eating the fruit, and Adam doesn’t intervene to protect Eve. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1Co 11:3). Christ submits to God the Father, men submit to Christ, and women submit to men—namely, their husbands. That is God’s design for men and women, but Adam and Eve rebelled against God as well as their God-prescribed identities as male and female.
As the story continues, Adam and Eve immediately feel shame. They become so uncomfortable in their own skin that they physically hide and attempt to cover their bodies with fig leaves (Ge 3:7). That’s a profound detail in the story. Before they corrupted themselves by twisting and distorting their identities, both as God’s creations and distinct sexes, they could walk around naked without a care in the world. Every bit of their persons was on display, and they never gave it a thought. Then, suddenly, they have an overwhelming impulse to hide themselves. They don’t want to be seen by one another or God.
In other words, Adam and Eve are ashamed of themselves. They’re ashamed of the new identities they’ve created for themselves by denying and distorting the identities God gave them.