And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17)
Adam and Eve had one rule: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
And although that was the only rule, they just couldn’t help themselves. They went ahead and did it anyway. Sometimes I wonder how quickly it took before they made it to the fruit. Part of me thinks it happened right away. I know that when I’m told I can’t do something, that’s the one thing I want to do. Is that an attitude I inherited from Adam? Or has it just always been part of who we are as a species? I don’t know. But I know that urge is strong. So maybe they got dropped off in the garden and then started eating forbidden fruit right away.
On the other hand, Adam had a lot of work to do. There were a lot of animals to be named. Adam of course did a good job with that. Well, maybe with the exception of “platypus.” So perhaps he was just too busy to go off eating forbidden fruit.
Eventually though, Adam and Eve turned toward that tree. The one thing they weren’t allowed to touch they went after. Satan knew exactly how to attack them. He convinced them that God was holding out on them. So they ate that fruit, and we’ve been paying for it ever since.
It can be easy to believe God wants us to be perfect. But I’m not sure that’s his goal. Perfection would mean we were God ourselves (because God is perfect). And I don’t think that’s what God is going for. God’s commands to Adam and Eve weren’t about perfection, they were about freedom. They were about doing whatever they wanted – with one exception.
In fact, God’s first words to Adam were “you are free”.
Yet Adam and Eve still committed sin. The original sin. And we’ve never stopped sinning. If Adam and Eve only had one thing they couldn’t do, what chance do you and I have to not sin? The answer is “none.” We will sin no matter how hard we try not to.
There’s part of me that is bothered by that realization. I want to be perfect and not sin. But that’s missing the point. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, perfection isn’t an issue. We are perfect through him. God isn’t expecting us to be more perfect. He’s created a way to experience perfection while still making mistakes.
That’s just one of the many amazing and clever things God has done in his relationship with humanity.
Ultimately God is more interested in us growing closer to him than striving for perfection. He knows that over time we will naturally sin less simply because we are connected with him. This fact lives in tension with our culture. We, as a society, believe in the importance of “manning up.” But that’s not what God wants. He doesn’t want us to try harder.
The only thing that will do is cause us to fall down.
Sin may always be part of your life, but it doesn’t have to rule it.