It’s an opinion I held for a long time. But one that gradually, but dramatically changed once I became a Christian and actually started to read the Bible. I’ve written about this before, but the insights into God revealed through familiar narratives continue to speak volumes to my spirit.
Take the Garden of Eden for instance.
We could debate day and night the scientific details and concrete evidence for and against the exact happenings of Creation. But to do so is to overlook the perfection contained in the opening chapters of Genesis.
Through one man and one woman we learn the perfect plan for a perfect creation put in place by a perfect God. A God who wants more than anything to maintain an intimate relationship with those He created in His image.
In Eden we see a vivid picture of life as God intended—harmonious, self-sustaining, balanced, communal. For the first and only time in all of human history man and woman lived in perfect unity with one another. Battle of the sexes? Never. There was no strife, conflict, jealousy, bitterness, anger or selfishness.
Plus, like the Peaceable Kingdom, humans lived side by side with all living creatures and the Earth provided everything they needed to eat. No killing or toiling. Best of all, Adam and Eve communed in the Garden with God. They all hung out together and God would stop by to visit over a cup of coffee (and scones of course).
Seriously. Let the image soak in. Imagine living in paradise and God regularly stopped by to invite you for a walk…or you being able to return the favor.
Take a moment to survey the garden of your own life: your relationships, your work, your finances, your emotional and physical health and the state of your spirit. No matter how good (or bad) you think your life is, it’s not even close to what God has planned for you. God does not intend most of what we consider “normal” in this life: materialism, busyness, greed, envy, depression, addiction, anger, divorce, promiscuity, war. We are so far out of the Garden of Eden, we don’t even know it.
So, what happened between then and now?
In every conversation about Adam and Eve the questions inevitably arise—if God knew how everything would turn out why did He set them up to fail? Why didn’t He stop them from eating the apple? Why didn’t he destroy the snake (or evil)?
I don’t know, so don’t expect an answer here, but when I look at Eden, I see that God provided everything Adam and Eve could want. They lived in perfect communion with their Creator, innocent of any evil whatsoever. God gave them all this, with one rule, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”
We know how the story goes.
Love is a choice. If God makes us love Him then it’s not love. It makes us puppets… or golden retrievers. Our Creator, by allowing in temptation and setting up boundaries, allows us to choose Him. Or not. God doesn’t force us to love Him. The choice is ours.
In the Genesis narrative, I hear God saying, “I created you in my image. I love you with an everlasting love. Listen to me, follow me and love me with all your heart, strength, mind and soul. When you do this you will find me. And all will be well with your soul.”
- Instead we doubt that God is really who He says He is.
- We believe there’s more to life than what He’s provided.
- We say we trust Him, but formulate contingency plans just to be sure.
- We choose other gods and build kingdoms of our own making.
- We listen to the lies of the enemy and follow them instead.
One thing that Adam and Eve show us with crystal clarity is that turning from God to take matters into our own hands NEVER improves our situation. Ever.
So are we doomed? Do we quit because we can never re-enter Eden?
The Garden of Eden wasn't a mistake. God knew how things would turn out. Even in the beginning, He alluded to the solution. Thankfully you and I live this side of the answer and can know it for ourselves—Jesus.
In the Garden of Eden it appeared the serpent won the battle. But in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus won the war. On the cross Jesus overcame death. Because of this death-defying act, Satan was vanquished and the gates to paradise were open once again. Not in this life, but the next.
Through one man came death. Through another came life—eternally. Here’s what the Message has to say:
"Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right…All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.” (Romans 5:18-19, 21)
Every time I read the newspaper I see the black and white truth proclaim, “we live in a VERY fallen world.” Yet every time I read God’s word, I see the black and white truth proclaim, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Matthew 1:15)
From the opening chapters of Genesis to the closing ones of Revelation, the Bible is a love story played out through all of human history. A loving God seeking a right relationship with His beloved creation. And a beloved creation continually choosing its own way. Again and again and again.
The Creation story isn't a fairy tale, it's the foundation of truth upon which the entire Bible rests. You and I are made in the image of God. He’s made His thoughts about us known. But He lets us choose our own path.
The question remains, what will you choose…Whom will you choose?