Saturday, September 4, 2010

God's Love: Part III, "What Happened?"

It has been refreshing to soak in the absolute wonder of our God as the Creator and all that He created for us—out of love. It has been like cool water to a dry and weary land. To imagine everything coming to life on the very day it was first born. To allow my mind’s eye to take it all in; to allow my heart to take it in. It has somehow caused my heart to expand, and joy to return where it was once lost.

True love does that. Like a lover, who longs to give the very best to his beloved. Only the best will do. God rolls up His sleeves, gathers every fiber of creativity within Him, and pours it all out for us to enjoy. This extravagant display of love and the glory of God bestowed on mankind is the Paradise we all long for. It awakens us to realize the glory we were first given, as we were made to be just like Him.

And then, somehow, this awakening leaves us wincing. A sobering reality sets in that we are no longer in Paradise. “What happened?”

Before we can answer that question, we must understand something first. Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) enjoyed perfect, unhindered, unstained, and unmarred fellowship with God Himself. They existed in perfect union with Him. And they (as we) were also given the freedom to choose.

The only authentic, true love is love that is chosen. We cannot force someone to love us, and neither can someone force us to love them. Who wants that anyway? You know this to be true. We want someone to choose to love us, and we long to choose for ourselves.

God did not make us mere puppets on a string for Him to manipulate for His own selfish pleasure. He gave us a heart like His with the capacity to love and to be loved. He is a gentleman, and does not force Himself or His will upon us. He simply lavishes us with His love, and waits to be loved back. John Eldredge calls it, “the dignity of freedom, to choose for or against Him.”

Amidst all the love and fellowship, God gave Adam and Eve the pleasure of tending and caring for the Garden of Eden. Its pleasing sight yielded all kinds of fruit, good for eating, and the Lord said they could have their fill. But He needed them to trust Him on this one thing: “You see that tree over there? That is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Do not eat the fruit of that tree, or you will surely die.” He needed them to trust that He had a good reason for this, that He had their best interest at heart.

This is where it all changes…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6)

Evil was hiding out in that garden, waiting for its chance to pounce. Every story has a villain, including ours. Originally, Lucifer had been the mightiest and most glorious of all the angels, but pride caused him to rebel against his Creator. He waged war in heaven, and was cast down. God expelled him from the heavens, but he was not destroyed. (Ezekiel 28:12-17)

Revenge became his next ploy. He would outwit God’s creation. “God’s holding out on you. You gotta take matters into your own hands. You will not die! He knows if you eat this fruit you will be just like Him.” Hello! We were already made in the image of God, to be just like Him.

That is precisely what our enemy hates. The Evil One hates God, therefore he hates us because we bear His image. If he cannot destroy God, then he will seek to destroy us. Hit Him where it hurts. Create enough doubt in the heart of every man and woman in order to destroy any semblance of trust in God. Then we might reject Him.

Adam and Eve had it all—the Paradise we can only dream of—the perfect world in perfect love. They had never experienced pain or grief or sin. Yet, they were so easily deceived to mistrust the heart of God. That one act of disobedience, that one momentary lapse of reason where the goodness of God’s heart was doubted, gave a plethora of opportunities for our enemy to continue his plight.

If they were deceived, how much more easily are we deceived? For we have experienced all the pain and grief of life. We now know death, violence, abuse, war, lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, and every evil thing. No wonder we have such a hard time trusting God! It all makes sense now! This love story is not nearly as safe as we've been made to believe.

And if we were created in love, by love, and for love…then surely, surely, Love will make a way.

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