Genesis 3:15-16 [The Lord God said to the serpent,] “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel.” To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
God begins his sentencing by addressing the serpent, the image in later Scripture of Satan, of the dark force in the world that pulls us into its maw. God first deals with this deep malevolence to free humanity from its grip. The serpent will be crushed by the “second Adam” as Paul calls Christ, who will give us power to tread this enemy underfoot (Luke 10:19).
But Adam and Eve are not innocent, and the consequences of their harmful choices still cling to them and their relationships. Love and trust have been traded for desire and power, which become the leverages that control the new world order according to verse 16. Remarkably, God’s way of overcoming our lust and power-hunger is not by a greater force but by a greater weakness, willingly taken up on the cross. The destructive relational patterns of this world can only be redeemed by love. The way back to reconciled relationships with one another and God will now always be against the tide and marked by suffering. We create community with sacrifice, not with punishing tit for tat.
Though God’s words sound like punishment, they are just sad words of truth. God warned Adam, “In the day you eat from it, you will surely die,” not “I will kill you.” Sin is inherently destructive–that is why it is forbidden. As Adam and Eve show, breaking bad leads to blame and conflict, and conflict leads to destruction and death. God simply explains to them the natural results of their disbelief and betrayal. Even the pain of childbirth is not a punishment but a wake-up call to ground us in the costly reality of love. Love is rooted in sacrifice as any genuine relationship proves, most profoundly in family where the greatest challenges lie. As with every new form of suffering that sin brings into the world, God turns pain into a remedy for recovery.