“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6)
Scripture does not tell us how long Adam and Eve lived in this perfect paradise receiving God’s perfect love and even receiving perfect love from each other because at this point human relationships had not been tainted with self-centeredness, guilt and shame. Their “world” was perfect in every respect and yet what they wanted more than God’s perfect love and perfect human love was control, autonomy and exaltation- “you will be like God.”
Although innumerable poems and love songs have been written over the course of human history about man’s deep desires and longings for that special loved one, we see from this passage and the example from Adam and Eve that even God’s perfect love did not satisfy them nor did their perfect love for each other satisfy them. The rub came because earlier God had told them that they must submit to His rule over their lives and that He would punish them if they disobeyed/rebelled against His command. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Geneisis 2:16-17) God seems to be saying to them, My love for you is absolutely perfect but you must trust Me and obey Me in order to continue to experience it and enjoy it. Satan blatantly lied to them (“you will not surely die” ; i. e., there are no consequences for sin and disobedience) and they wrongly thought they were wiser than God (which is both sinful autonomy and rebellion) so they chose the forbidden fruit thinking that this would make them happier than continuing to receive God’s perfect love by trusting and obeying Him. As the saying goes, how’s that working for you?
“What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” As we’ve just seen from our first human parents, lack of love is not the main problem with life. They had it in spades from God and each other. Or to put it another way, mankind does not need love as the world defines it and even as we as individuals define it in our fallenness and selfishness. When we say and think of love what we really mean is, “I want you to love me the way I want to be and expect to be loved.” Yet the love we receive from God is self-giving love and He calls us and commands us to love others as He loves us. “And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13) This love is agape love and is defined in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon “to be full of good-will and exhibit the same…to regard the welfare of others.” Paul points us to Jesus as the model for perfect love of God and man. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8) This is the kind of love the world needs now; “it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
Human love apart from agape love has a hook on it; we give to get. Whereas God’s love, agape love, gives freely expecting nothing in return. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32-36)
God’s love for us is truly what we need. It is both constant and unconditional and yet He loves us in a way that makes us more like Him which is self-giving versus self-centered. Naturally all mankind is like Adam and Eve, and when God doesn’t love us the way we want and expect and meet our perceived needs and wants we want to take control of our lives and eat the forbidden fruit and find a “better lover.”
But when we are born again we have God’s supernatural power in us and can grow in our capacity to love even our enemies and give to them expecting nothing in return. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
The natural, unsaved man deep down hates God because God not only commands him to obey Him but He also says that He will punish him for his disobedience now and for eternity including eternal misery in hell unless he repents and receives the only satisfactory payment for sin – the merciful and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. The world calls us to tolerance. Fallen man can tolerate almost any sin out there, murder, adultery, abortion, same-sex marriage, but they will not tolerate God and His rule over their lives and His promise of punishment for their sin. “Why do the nations plan rebellion? Why do people make their useless plots? Their kings revolt, their rulers plot together against the Lord and against the king (Jesus) he chose. “Let us free ourselves from their rule,” they say; “let us throw off their control.” (Psalm 2:1-3) Jesus the perfect Man and God loves us sacrificially, tenderly and with Truth. Love without truth is not love. Sin is like cancer to the soul and we don’t tell people with cancer to tolerate it for that would not be loving. We advise them to get help as quickly as they can. Jesus says the same about sin. “So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30) Yes this is a hyperbole but the point is to deal as quickly and drastically with sin in the soul as we would deal with cancer in the body. “It is appointed and destined for all men to die once (no reincarnation, no second chances) and after this [comes certain] judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) Come to Christ today for no one knows if he has a tomorrow.
Like Adam and Eve, we can think that freedom is making our own choices, running our own lives versus submitting to God’s loving and perfect will for our lives. But listen to how Jesus defines freedom. “Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. “We are the descendants of Abraham,” they answered, “and we have never been anybody’s slaves. What do you mean, then, by saying, ‘You will be free’? (The Jews were enslaved to the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medo/Persians, Greeks and at the time Jesus was speaking to them they were enslaved to the Romans.) Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. (Every unsaved person is enslaved to sin and even as believers we can still rebel against God and become enslaved to sin.) A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there forever. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.” (John 8:31-36)
We would be wise to look for love in the only right place – God and His perfect will for our lives as revealed in His Word. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2) “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen