1The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5
When evil enters the picture it starts with lies. Evil calls into question what God has said. Evil always tests our grasp on God — who God is and what God has said. Will we diminish God in our lives by eroding His Word – either by taking from it or by adding to it?
Then the outright confrontation comes. “You won’t die!” “Your eyes will be opened.” “You will be like God.”
The serpent presents God as one who is holding out on them, who can’t be trusted. The serpent presents the experiential knowledge of evil as a necessary prerequisite for being divine, complete, and powerful. He lies.
15The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Genesis 2:15-17
This tree of the knowledge of good and evil appears to be the problem when we look back through the lens of our suffering and evil. Why did God do this? The tree is the hinge on which love turns. God created humanity with capacity and opportunity to choose love. So it is with the “image of God.” Love maintains a mixture of awe and respect with trust. Love cherishes the other. Love enters communion. These are all choices. Without “the tree” there are no choices and humanity resides in the garden as automatons, puppets on a string, acting only within a predetermined script.
Just as relationship within the communion of God is dynamic; so relationship between God and those who bear His image is dynamic.
Love for God is to live in respect to God with trust in Him and in His Word. The image of God has been bestowed on us and with it comes both capacity and responsibility to choose.
Scripture: 2 Peter 5:3-10
Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones…
Peter affirms that God is judging those who distort the truth, abuse His name, and exploit people.
God is not asleep. When it seems like wickedness is prevailing Peter reminds these people under pressure that God’s judgment has appeared, and will come again. This is particularly important because of the hubris that accompanies willful rebellion against God and His Gospel. A view of God’s judgment also is important for helping us metabolize the lack of mindfulness toward God and the lack of empathy toward people that may characterize people doing evil things. Jesus said, “Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” But what do we do, when they do know what they are doing?
Heavenly Father, To trust that you will ultimately put all things right means that I believe you are the solution to evil and to the brokenness generated by our independence from you. To trust that you are putting things right through Jesus Christ means that I abandon revenge and self-righteousness. To trust that you are putting things right means that I believe we can find some measure of justice in this world for others who suffer from the evil deeds and decisions humans are capable of. But even then nothing will be so satisfying as knowing you. AMEN.