Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, January 18, 2007

There Were No Fences in the Garden

The following was published in the local Macomb newspaper on 1/12/07 in a weekly column that local ministers supply called Street & Steeple.

There were No Fences in the Garden.

As a parent of small children, fences are a valuable safety tool. Fences define boundaries; prevent unwanted things from getting in and preventing wanted things from escaping. The fences help parents provide some limit to the defenseless wanderer, protecting what is on the inside.

In a zoo, however, fences provide a different function. There, what is on the inside is in some manner dangerous. The fence keeps the dangerous thing separate, keeping us away from that danger, protecting what is on the outside, while still letting us see it.

In the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and 3, you will never read of a fence. God had given a command, not to eat the fruit of a certain tree—the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—but He did not rope it off, deny them access or put up a fence.

God treated Adam and Eve like adults—like competent, morally responsible beings. He gave a warning, explained the consequences and provided Adam and Eve the freedom to choose—to follow or to disregard.

Look around and you will see examples of this, most of which you choose to follow—“Swim at Your Own Risk”, “Do Not Feed the Bears”, “Yield”, “Speed Limit 65”. OK so that last one is typically ignored—but you do so with the knowledge that there is greater risk to yourself and others, as well as potential consequences. After all, it’s not the police officer’s fault that you chose to speed.

So there was this tree, right in the middle of the Garden without a fence to protect it or us. Adam and Eve could walk right by it, could, if they wanted to, go up and touch it. How many times had they walked past this Tree, noticed it, wondered about it and chose to stay away from it even when there was no fence to prevent them? For some undetermined time, Adam and Eve coexisted with the Tree right in front of them, with no fence.

As a result, they enjoyed the benefits of the Garden—their food was provided, they had no fear of threat from the world around them, and most importantly, they enjoyed the presence of their Creator and had a close relationship with Him.

There was no fence, even with the command. But if the Tree and its fruit had such great consequences, why was there no fence, no protection?

Again, it comes down to Freedom. You and I have the freedom to choose what is right and choose what is wrong. A genuine relationship—which God wishes to have with each one of us— is only possible when there is choice. A Love Relationship only truly exists when both the one loving and the one who is loved have a say in the matter.

God did not put up a fence around what He declared off limits because He values love Given, not Taken. It is the misuse of our freedom that causes separation and pains the heart of God more than anything else in the universe.

This begs a couple of questions, what is so dangerous about the fruit of this tree? Why would God want to deny them access to this knowledge in the first place? The serpent in the account wanted Adam and Eve to believe that God was suppressing them, holding out on them and that God does not have their best interests at heart. Satan didn’t tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—he distorted the truth.

It was true that Adam and Eve would not instantly fall over dead upon eating the fruit. It was also true that they would gain an awareness of Good & Evil, just like God. But Satan neglected to tell them that gaining this knowledge would corrupt them. Satan used a classic trap—mix as much truth as you need to make the lie believable. What the serpent held back was devastating.

God has an awareness of evil, an understanding of it in such a way that it does not corrupt His Character or Holiness. He knows it, but evil is never a part of Him. The same could not be said for us. When we took the fruit and gained an awareness of evil—it corrupted us, it became a part of our nature. Our knowledge of evil shatters our innocence and holiness because we then want to put what we know into practice. Our knowledge of good and evil corrupts us and separates us from our Creator. This separation hurts the heart of God more than anything else in this universe.

I say all of this with the hope that you understand certain things. First, that God values and respects your freedom. God treats you as an adult—a free, competent moral being who is capable of understanding right from wrong so much so that He doesn’t put up fences to keep you from making a bad decision.

Second, that God values genuine relationship with you based on choice not coercion—He wants you to be His friend.

And lastly, that God proved He was willing to do anything to restore our broken relationship with Him by sending Jesus into the world. This is the spirit of John 15:13--“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”


digisnapper said...

Was this your article? It's great whoever wrote it. If yours, could I use it (or part of it) in my monthly church newsletter?
Love you all.

Kelly Reed said...

Sorry, yes this was my article. The local paper has a weekly column written by a local minister and this was a week I'd signed up for.

Glad you liked it.