Perfection. Beauty. Tranquility, peace and inexpressible love.
If we rewind the tape right to the beginning we discover perfection at the start of the story. The creation story in Genesis reveals to us the fruit of God’s creativity and it was bliss. Or as the often understated bible says “good”.
Adam and Eve created to rule and reign on earth in perfect communion with God who walked with them in this garden paradise. An amazing picture of intimacy and a powerful revelation of God’s intent, desire and goal for creation.
It really was heaven on earth.
Yet right in the centre of Eden, which literally means the “garden of God”, were two trees. Two significant trees. One of these trees was forbidden.
One good choice; the tree of life. One bad choice; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Have you ever stopped to think about that?
In the midst of God’s perfect creation He placed a bad choice.
I like to think that if I were to design paradise I would leave out all the bad choices. Only good choices please. That way no-one can mess it up! Yet this was not God’s plan in His supreme wisdom. In case there is any doubt I suspect He knows better than me.
This simple act of placing a forbidden tree at the centre of paradise reveals much about God.
Firstly, unlike us He is not interested in controlling people. His solution was not to enforce perfection through lack of choice but rather allow freedom. It can be very easy to slip into believing that an all powerful God should exert His power to ensure He always got His way. The first 3 chapters of the bible tell us otherwise. We don’t worship a dictator God but a loving Father God.
Secondly, we find a God who is not insecure in His supremacy. He does not shy away from options and He does not suppress individuality. The kind of obedience He desires is not based on fear or manipulation. He is looking for a people who will choose Him out of love. He makes clear what the choices mean but this does not negate them as real choices.
He makes Himself vulnerable to the possibility that some will make poor choices. Ultimately leading people away from Him. He believes the risk is somehow worth it.
I am amazed how often I find myself wanting to exert control on others. The truth is, the only person I can control is myself, and that is only on a good day!! Have you ever found yourself thinking it would be so much easier if that person would just do it your way. Do you ever have conversations which you try to steer people in a direction you want.
As a parent I sometimes have to fight the urge to remove all the bad choices from my daughter. There are limits to how much you can toddler-proof your house! Health and safety aside there are many choices for which I would prefer her to do one thing rather than the other. How do I let her grow in obedience out of love whilst guiding and avoiding force?
When I look to the way God fathers us I am challenged again. The tale of two trees speaks to me. It challenges my perspective on God and it challenges the way I live today.
Perhaps paradise is not truly paradise without the presence of a bad choice.
What do you think?