In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve a choice. Choose the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The former would preserve their innocence, guarantee them eternal and abundant life, and the latter would bring death, shame, blame, guilt, and judgment.
As we all know, they accepted Satan’s temptation to seek forbidden knowledge, and to attempt to become like God. This is not just a historical account. Genesis is a book of foundations for the Christian faith. This story and its accompanying lessons still apply today. Daily we are faced with the choice of which tree we will live under.
The two trees offer familiar contrasts. For example, the tree of life causes us to look at life’s events as a “life vs. death” issue, whereas the tree of knowledge of good and evil causes us to make the same concerns a “right vs. wrong” issue. And once we fall into the judgmental mindset of the forbidden tree, the door for death is opened, just as it was for Adam and Eve. Shame, blame, and guilt are just around the corner. When my brother or sister makes a mistake, do I correct them in a right/wrong, judgmental attitude or simply pray for them, speaking life and blessing over them, leaving the judgment up to the Lord?
Am I crusading against correct biblical knowledge and education? No, of course not. However, I think in the book of Genesis, the Creator is warning us that there is such a thing as forbidden knowledge, or as I Corinthians 8:1 says, “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” This leaves us with the worst of sins – pride. Pride is very deceitful and blinding. As someone has said, “Pride is sort of like bad breath. You’re the last one to know you have it.” There is nothing wrong with learning and knowledge as long as you receive it with a tree of life attitude.
In Jesus’ day, many times the Son of God, at first glance, appeared to be wrong and the Pharisees right in regards to the legalistic application of the Law. After all, his disciples did not always adhere to every part of the Law, especially on a couple of Sabbaths. As the saying goes, some would say the Pharisees were “dead right.” I agree, they seemed right but they were DYING! You might say they were “Dead right!”
Have you ever been in a situation where you walked away feeling “right” but knowing deep down inside you had robbed the situation and persons involved of life and hope? Or in contrast, have you ever been in a situation where you could have been the person with the “right answer” but instead chose to just pray, bless, and encourage the people involved? Legalistic Christians will always make the issue right versus wrong, and guess who they think is the right side of the issue? Yes of course…them! You better exhibit the right behavior, have the right theology, and display the right kind of worship, follow the right bible teachers, etc, etc.
Jesus said he came “that we might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In his interaction with the Pharisees the issue was typically choosing a life-giving relationship with Him in contrast to adhering with their many rules and requirements. In John 5:39 and 40, Jesus confronts the religious leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
Even 2000 years later, there are people who elevate scripture over relationship. They love the Word of the Lord more than the Lord of the Word. As John 5:39 states, you can know Scripture inside and out, but if it does not cause you to fall in love with Jesus and soon begin to allow him to live through you, exhibiting his love and character, then you may be trapped in a stronghold of legalism. (As to why, it can be a complex issue – to be addressed at another time).
If you are a Christian, you should be assisting in helping to build God’s kingdom. Jesus has already won the war, but we still have a battles to fight each and every day as we confront darkness with light, lies with truth, and broken people with forgiveness and love. What type of wins are you obtaining in this battle? Winning the arguments or imparting life? It should be the latter.
Great conflicts and splits have begun over “right vs. wrong” issues in the Church. And guess what – nobody wins. Pride, death, and division is usually the final result. However, we have a weapon no other religion has – the ability to impart the resurrected life of Christ to others. His is the only one that conquered death and has given us new life!
Impart life to others whenever you get a chance. Your flesh will attempt to rise up in pride with the desire to “be right.” Do not allow it to manifest. The Bible allows us to inspect the fruit of others lives but only God is allowed to judge the heart and motives (I Sam 16:7, Matthew 7)
After the original sin in the Garden, Adam and Eve hid from God. God’s response to them was “Where are you?” and not “Why did you do that?” Notice that he is not angry or condemning. His first response was to find them and reestablish relationship. The Holy Spirit is more than able to convict, correct, and realign followers later on in the process of sanctification (and he doesn’t need your help, legalists!) Our job is to help others reestablish relationship with the second Adam, Jesus! We are crying out, “Where are you?” Then and only then can they return to life in the Garden, enjoying absolute innocence and relationship with a loving Father.
Be warned. Those two trees will still be there. Each and every day, you will look at them in each situation and have to decide which road you will take – right vs. wrong or life versus death. Choose life! Choose Jesus!