Contemplating mankind’s errant ways and need for restoration can lead us into all kinds of metaphors, analogies, myths, and fairytales.
Amidst all the musing, the central issue can easily get lost, or even completely missed and never discovered.
From my foundation of Christian faith, I have regularly heard the terms “sin” and “salvation,” and often encountered all kinds of courtroom, debt, and slavery analogies.
Each may be helpful to a degree, shedding a ray of light onto a mystery that seems somewhat graspable, and yet not entirely explainable.
But I still think that there’s something missing in all of this, as we try to understand the circumstances of humankind and the nature of our brokenness.
It wasn’t until a friend shared an incredible insight with me that the pieces became more clear. And as another friend has done more writing on the subject of relationship recently, I think I’m getting a clearer picture than ever.
What is the main issue? What is the big mistake that Adam & Eve committed in the Garden of Eden when they listened to the snake and grabbed the fruit off of the forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”?
Their problem was this: they were seeking to know apart from God, apart from relationship with Him.
Rather than continuing to walk with Him in the garden during the cool of the day, chatting it up about whatever they wanted to know and whatever He wanted to tell them, they tried to take the quick and dirty way, the non-relational way.
They were trying to erode the mystery (what will happen if we go against what God says, if we leave Him out of our thoughts and actions?), trying to just gather the information and cut to the chase rather than learn progressively, as a result of walking daily with the Sovereign of the Universe.
They tried to become self-defined: we are the ones who know, the ones who have eaten of the fruit.
The result was indeed self-definition…an isolation and separation from God and a shame and concern for self that they could hardly bear.
They got knowledge alright. They got awareness. But they didn’t get the right kind, the right way.
I’ve heard that instead of calling it “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” it might be better understood as “the tree of good and bad knowing.”
Some philosophers may claim that all knowledge is good and virtuous. But clearly, there are some things that we are really better off not knowing–like how to make nuclear weapons. And there are other things that are not worth knowing in the way that we came to learn them–gruesome human experiments in Nazi Germany come to mind.
No, there is good knowing and bad knowing. Good knowing comes from walking in relationship with the One who forms, owns, and runs the Universe. Bad knowing comes from going our own way, pursuing the knowledge we want by the methods we choose, rather than learning the things we need to know from the one Good Teacher.
There was a tree in the middle of the garden that represented a choice: good knowing was available and enjoyed. Bad knowing was out there. Instant gratification. Delightful to the eyes. Food for the body and mind. But not for the soul.
Humanity’s main issue is that we tried to learn and grow apart from God. We tried to define for ourselves what we should know–and thus how we should live, and even who we should be. And these things run exactly contrary to the essence of good knowing, of walking the path that God has for us, of learning the lessons He teaches us, of becoming the people He has intended for us to be.
The sin of partaking of the tree of knowledge is not merely disobeying the commandment of God (as if that weren’t enough), but rather the plotting of a course of self-definition and self-determination that is not ours to plot. We don’t belong to ourselves. We were bought at a price. And we were created for relationship. To turn our back on these things, to turn our back on this God, is at the root of our ongoing need for restoration, for deliverance, for salvation.