Posts Tagged ‘Tree of Life’

Growing up in mainstream Christianity, the story of Adam and Eve seemed pretty basic. God created a paradise, gave mankind one simple rule (i.e. don’t eat of the forbidden tree), and then we didn’t follow it.  Boom!  Sin enters the picture, and we’re thrown out of the garden.  Of course, there was the snake and the fig leaves, but it’s not rocket science.  Eat the good fruit, not the bad fruit; don’t listen to the guy telling you otherwise; do what God tells you, or lose paradise.


It’s not exhaustive, but you get the idea. It all comes down to this battle between good and evil, and you’d better end up on the good side if you hope to get to heaven.  Sure, later on you’ll hear that we’re all saved by grace, but from the beginning it’s pretty clear that what God is really after is obedience.


Years later, when I finally revisited this story on my own, I was surprised at how different it seemed. Most important, was the realization that the choice Adam and Eve faced in the garden wasn’t between the fruit of what is good, and of what is evil, it was fruit from the Tree of Life, or fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.


Don’t get me wrong, I remembered what the trees were called, I just never attached any importance to it. Clearly the Tree of Life was the “good” fruit and the other was the “evil” fruit.  What else do you really need to know?  But upon further review, I realized God was saying something more here.


The tree of life is pretty easy, it’s really just a picture of Jesus. It offers us provision from the Giver of life, and like any fruit tree, we’ll need to come back daily to sustain ourselves.  He became our daily bread.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  The fruit is good because He is good.


Less obvious is the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. I mean, doesn’t God want us to know the difference between good and evil.  After all, if it’s really about a battle between the light and darkness, isn’t this essential information?  Why should God forbid that we eat of this tree?


It’s the snake that answers this question. He tells Eve that if they eat of the fruit, they’ll become like God.  In other words, they won’t have to rely on Him for this knowledge, they’ll be able to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil.  It was the choice between being completely dependent upon God or living life on their own terms.  Sin entered in when mankind chose the latter.  The punishment wasn’t because God was mad at them, He was actually giving them the life they chose; a life lived by their own wits, and sweat, and sense of what was right.


Repeatedly in scripture, God sets before us life and death, and encourages us to choose life. That’s what He was doing in the garden as well.  Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”, and the Tree of Life is the way to life.  Conversely, the scriptures tell us that there is a way that seems right to a man, and that it ultimately leads to death.  That’s where the fruit of the forbidden tree takes us.


This whole discussion is important because, whether we recognize it or not, He sets this same choice before us every day. If it was really just a question of good versus evil, and of being obedient to the commandments, then the Rich Young Ruler shouldn’t have gone away disappointed. Jesus didn’t dispute this man’s claim of obedience, He simply required something more of him.


He said that people would know us by our fruit, and that the only way to produce that fruit was to abide in the vine. He warned us that simply calling Him Lord, and doing good things in His name wasn’t what He was after.  He told us that we should live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Today, just as He did in the garden, He sets before us life and death.  Let us choose life.

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I recently read an article about a popular young actress, who claims that she’d been a “born-again Christian” for 4 years.  She says that this all changed when, at 16 yrs. old, she had a major crush on a bisexual man, who liked to dress in women’s clothing.  Because of her great affection for him, she thought, “There’s no way this guy’s going to hell.  This guy is amazing.”  Since that was counter to the teachings of her church, she decided to leave Christianity behind.  Her take on the Bible is that it lacks “strong female role models” and that though “it was a nice guide”, “it certainly wasn’t how I was going to live my life.”  I would guess that her story isn’t all that unusual in Hollywood, or the rest of America for that matter.  At least this girl seemed to recognize that by throwing the Bible “out the window” she was fundamentally departing from the entire system of belief.  There are many folks who still count themselves “Christian” and even occupy a pew on a weekly basis, who believe that they can pick and choose which parts of God’s word they adhere to.


While I wasn’t really surprised by this article, I was struck by this girl’s utter confidence (i.e. faith) in her ability to discern what was acceptable and what was not.  In effect, she’s saying that she’s not willing to believe in a God who doesn’t agree with her conception of right and wrong.  As I pondered the source of her confidence I couldn’t help but think of the Garden of Eden, where man first got to choose between the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Interestingly, religion has confused people into believing that the choice was between the knowledge of good and the knowledge of evil, which really skews the lesson of the fall of man.  Ultimately, mankind’s folly is wrapped up in his desire to decide for himself rather than to depend on a Savior.  In fact, Jesus told his disciples, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”  In the end, it will all boil down to what we’ve placed our faith in.  For this young woman, who is rich in the things of this world, that will likely be her own sense of righteousness.  For those who choose the tree of life, that will be the righteousness of our Savior.

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