Understanding God’s Love and the Sin that changed the World
ATTENTION: You are reading the 3rd chapter in a blog to book series about Genesis (God in the Garden). I recommend starting with the introduction if you haven’t read it yet. If you are interested in learning when the book will be released or discussing anything said in these posts, please reach out through the contact page.
There are many misconceptions about the garden of Eden. It’s no wonder that, as a result, many people have trouble coming to terms with God’s actions in Genesis and have difficulty grasping the fullness of His love. Maybe one of Eden’s most prevalent misconceptions is that it was this boring, comfortable place where nothing changed. God had meant for us to sit around and do nothing for eternity and got angry when we made one simple mistake. Except this isn’t the truth. Why does this perception persist?
It’s by trying to imagine a perfect world that we can get the wrong idea about Eden. We almost solely focus on the fulfillment of pleasure and the absence of pain before the fall. Is that all there was to Eden? Could there have been more? While that was a part of it, and God wants us to enjoy this world, that was not the reason for the garden.
In fact, if that’s all the garden of Eden was (a static state of self-serving pleasure), it would have been hell. We need to let go of the notion that Eden is only about the enjoyment of pleasure and the absence of pain. That’s like saying the only reason to get married is to have sex. Sure, that might be nice, but that’s not its sole purpose, and if you base your marriage on that alone, you’re going to be miserable. When we only focus on the pleasure in Eden, we do the same thing. We focus on the lesser blessing and miss the whole point. Eden’s most important part (the true gift) was always about growing in eternal relationship with God.
Another misconception about the garden is that there was no work. Again it’s this same belief that the best aspects of life are pleasure and ease (static). Genesis 2:15 tells us that God intended for us to tend and keep the garden. He also gives us dominion over the animals. Work wasn’t something that came as a result of the fall. It was always a part of the plan.
It’s vital that we work, not because God needs us to but because He knows that we need to. For our relationship with Him to truly be fulfilling (for us to grow and mature), we need work. We need something to do beyond focusing on ourselves. He knew that laying around all day and sipping daiquiris by the pool would never be enough. There had to be more. Growth and work were always critical parts of that plan. We are made to work (serve God and others).
God also told us in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” We can see in this verse that God always intended us to grow beyond the garden of Eden. He didn’t intend for us to stay in the nursery forever. When we focus on God sending Adam and Eve out of Eden, we may see that as Him denying us something, but God always intended for us to grow beyond it. Nothing can be more straightforward than this verse. It’s evident that the garden of Eden wasn’t just about some idyllic location. God didn’t want us to stay there forever but to grow beyond it in union with Him.
This is in contrast to the world’s view of the banishment. It’s always assumed that God never intended us to leave or that he was going to keep us there forever. Eden wasn’t about a place we can walk around naked and eat fruit all day. The great loss wasn’t that we got kicked out of club med. What made paradise good wasn’t the location. It was the communion with God. It was about a deep and abiding relationship with God. As soon as Adam and Eve rejected God’s will (and relationship with Him), we lost paradise. It was instant. There is no relationship when one party stops respecting and listening to the other. There is no relationship when one person says they don’t trust the other (which is what Adam and Eve did with the fruit). God didn’t want to send them out, but he had to. As mentioned in the previous chapter, it isn’t loving to force someone to have a relationship on terms they don’t want (obeying and respecting God’s will). And because of the nature of God (perfect and holy), we can’t have it on our terms. It has to be His way or nothing. Adam and Eve choose nothing. Sending them out of the garden wasn’t the punishment but one of the first steps necessary for reconciliation (more on that later).
We also get this idea that perfection and sinlessness are the same thing. God is both, but that doesn’t mean they are synonymous. At the very beginning (Genesis 1:31), God looks at the earth and calls it “very good.” He doesn’t say it’s perfect. For in absolute perfection, there can never be any mistakes. There is no possibility of failure. When you are perfect, you don’t need to grow, and you don’t need to learn. You are finished. This is where I think a lot of our logic about the garden fails. We assume Adam and Eve were perfect at the start (that they were finished and mature), that there was no growing for them to do, and they were just figures in this static garden.
Sin or not, God realizes we are not perfect. He knows He alone is absolutely perfect. He realized we would make mistakes as we grew. He wasn’t holding us up to an impossible standard. We were always meant to grow and learn. Growing, learning, and failing along the way were always part of the plan. In this, we could grow in relationship with Him. Failure and sin can be the same, but again, it doesn’t make them synonymous. There is a difference between failing and sinning. There is a difference between being immature and committing sin.
Today when we accept Jesus, God sees us as he saw Adam and Eve. We are washed clean of our sin by the blood of Jesus (sinless). Though Adam and Eve didn’t require this atonement, God saw them the same way (sinless). In this state, we grow and mature. Just as growth is necessary today, it would’ve been then. As we grow in our walk and grow to be more like Him, so would have been God’s plan for Adam and Eve.
They were learning and growing in relationship with Him as we are now. God was teaching them how to be more like Him. Though they had not sinned, that didn’t make them perfect. They were still immature and needed to grow. From the very beginning, God intended us to grow in relationship with him. Growth was always a part of His plan. Being without sin doesn’t mean perfection or that we are mature. Growth is always necessary. It’s how we gain wisdom.
God’s plan was about our eternal growth and relationship with Him from the start. As it was in Eden, so it is today, on earth. Contrary to what some believe, our journey doesn’t end with accepting Jesus into our lives. That’s only the beginning of our eternal growth in relationship with God. It’s the start of a maturing that never ends (increasing in love and wisdom). While we grow towards perfection in eternal union with Him, we will never quite get there (only God is absolutely perfect). That may sound disappointing to some, but to me, that’s exciting. That means that we will always have something to grow toward. We will never lose our dependence on or need for God. He will always be a source and provider, even in heaven. It also is not some static place where we are just comfortable and sit around on clouds. It is a place where we grow in union with God as we experience and learn from his infinite love and wisdom forever.
Today many have a skewed perception of Christianity. A popular stereotype is that most Christians are judgmental, self-righteous, and think they’re better than everyone else. To be honest, everyone on the planet could fit that stereotype at one time or another. I can’t claim to be non-judgmental all the time. And while that stereotype may fit some that identify as Christian, those that have a real relationship with Christ are different. God changes us and makes us new in Him. Accepting Christ brings us closer to God and changes us for the better (not for, the worse).
Though we still have flaws and make mistakes (even sometimes sin). The beautiful thing is that through these mistakes, growth is possible. It’s this growth that we call our walk with God. It is in our walk (a relationship with Him) that we mature. Of course, the initial acceptance of Christ is essential, but God wants more than that. He wants a deep and abiding relationship with us. As we grow and mature (get to know him through the Bible, in prayer, and in fellowship with other Christians), God reveals more of Himself (gives us wisdom). As he does, we become better imitators of Him.
None of this is possible, though, unless we are capable of growing. In order to grow, we need to be able to make mistakes. To make mistakes, we need to be able to have free will. That’s why free will is so essential. Unfortunately, that opens the door for the possibility of sin and death too.
There are many misconceptions about Eden that create a lot of confusion. The only way we ever will address the bigger lies about God is by first addressing all the little lies and misunderstandings about Eden. In this chapter, we covered:
- The main purpose of Eden wasn’t about pleasure in the absence of pain. It was about far more than that.
- Since the beginning, we were made to work (serve). Life isn’t about comfort. It’s about fulfilling a purpose beyond ourselves.
- God never intended for us to hang out in Eden forever. We were always meant to leave it, even before the fall.
- God does not have unrealistic expectations for us. He realizes we are imperfect. He understands we make mistakes.
- We were always meant to grow in relationship with God. That was always the plan from the start. That was what it was all about!