Have you ever thought about why Genesis 2-3 happened the way that it did? Adam and Eve in a perfect garden… but why include some mysterious tree or a talking serpent for that matter? To refresh your memory, here is Genesis 2:15-17…
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
And we know what happens next in chapter 3. The serpent tempts both Adam and Eve and distorts God’s word, ultimately leading to the first sin of disobeying God.
I recall a conversation several years ago with a non-Christian who was familiar with several bible stories. He pointed out that perhaps a better thing for God to do would have been to leave out the forbidden fruit in the first place! Why would God allow this possibility for sin and failure? Couldn’t there have been no tree (or serpent!) in the first place?
These are obviously complicated sorts of questions. We don’t exactly know the mind of God, but we can think in broad terms about the deeper meaning of the story of Adam and Eve. So what can this biblical episode teach us about freedom and human nature?
True love can only exist when someone has the freedom to accept or reject that love. To put it bluntly, you cannot hold a gun to someone’s head and demand “love me!” from him or her. If someone were to say “yes” in the situation, it is quite clear he or she was forced to do so, either out of fear or manipulation. You cannot make people love you. It has to be a free choice.
So love only exists when you have freedom to choose otherwise. With that in mind, the presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a lot makes sense in the Garden Eden…
Because God essentially gave Adam and Eve a choice.
If they were to choose to obey God by not eating of the fruit, they would have enjoyed the wonders and pleasures of Eden. And on the other hand, if they were to to disobey God, there would be consequences. God provided that option in order for love to exist. Adam and Eve were not robots. Neither were they forced into doing anything. They knew God’s will, but still had to make the decision on whether to follow it or not.
God offers us that same freedom, too. God gives us the choice of whether to follow Christ or not. We have that freedom to decide for ourselves. Fortunately, God has given us grace to make that decision–think of all the evidence of God’s grace in your own life, as well as witnessing the “signature” of God throughout creation!
But the choice still remains… will you follow God? Or will you go the other direction?
Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 talked about how we have the freedom to do whatever we want. Everything is permissible, but at the same time, we need to realize that not everything is edifying or beneficial for that matter. We discussed yesterday how this relates to our entire life as Christians–both our physical body and the decisions we make on a daily basis. And as we reflect on the MLK holiday today, we need to remember that being a Christian means we apply the love of God to every part of our life. We don’t just pray or worship on Sundays alone. We also extend the same love and equality God showed us to all people, regardless of skin color or nationality.
God gives us the freedom to decide what to do, and hopefully with that freedom, we will choose Jesus.