That One Tree
Monday, June 17, 2013
Oh that one tree, the one we couldn’t resist eating from: Knowledge of good and evil. We’d all agree as Christians that it changed the course of mankind, but when we dig into how that change relates to the knowledge of good and evil, we’ll discover a profound truth buried inside our very nature. I feel even at the outset of writing this that I will fail to gather words that can be containers of this truth that only God’s Spirit can reveal, but I suppose that’s to be expected. Here we go… The eyes we possess to see good and evil is the very vice that traps us. The very knowledge of good and evil is what spawns standards among mortals. Because we “know” the difference between good and evil, we quite naturally tend to devise systems around that knowledge. We devise standards, or measuring sticks, that we then seek to uphold. When we succeed, we feel good about ourselves. When we fail, we feel miserable. This same standard we then subconsciously tend to hold up against everyone around us. If they measure up, we can become friends, and talk about how we excel at upholding these standards (even though we secretly think that we are the better of them all), and shake our heads in unison at the poor suckers on the outside of our accepted standard. (Remind you of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time at all?) These tendencies are engrained in our very nature. Just as our sense of hearing bids us compose music, our knowledge of good and evil beckons us to create standards by which to judge based on that knowledge. Sadly, it’s by this device that little kingdoms are born among the church; each ruled with slight differences, and all at war against each other. All founded in Christ’s name, but de facto devised in the name of self-demarcation and self-righteousness, not realizing that true holiness comes from by being marked by His Spirit and His leading, and not our own standards.
We would be misled to deduce from this that church denominations are an evil; afterall, standards, routines, and laws are not intrinsically evil. And to poise an attack at a denominational structure would be like chopping off a few branches from a tree and expecting the tree to die. As vehemently as you may chop those branches off, new ones will eventually grow back in place. The problem exists in the root structure. The problem exists in me. It was fallen humans in collective numbers that build the abominable tower of Babel, just like it is collective fallen humans who construct the standards that lead us to a form of godliness. It is in fact a subtle whoreship to self-righteous elitism, fueled by the failure of others to reach that same standard. “I am better” is based on the knowledge that there is a better, and there is a worst: The knowledge of good and evil. By the lens of this knowledge of good and evil we measure some to be wise, and others to be fools. By this lens, the rich young ruler appraised Jesus as the “good teacher”. Jesus’ response skewers the problem square in the heart: “Why do you call me good? There is only One who is good.” And guess what? It ain’t you. Knowledge of good and evil is confidence in our assessment of what is right and wrong, but God has called this righteousness filthy rags. In fact, God goes so far as to resist a self-righteous man, calling it a form of pride based on his own accomplishment. But on the other side of the spectrum, His grace rests with the humble. He empowers the ones this world has called unworthy. God looks at our system, sees the ones we exalt due to their exception performance in our standards, and instead gives His grace to the ones that by our system are the most unsuspecting. Hidden from the “wise” and granted to the “foolish”. Those exalted, humbled. Those humble, exalted. Judging others comes from this heart that discerns good from evil, which is why Jesus commanded against it. Jesus wasn’t joking: Those who judge really do have a plank-sized sin in their lives: A spirit of religion and comparison that’s worse than any other speck they’ve spotted. Of all the forces of darkness in our realm, it wasn’t the spirit of pornography, or drug-addiction, or mammon that crucified the son of God; it was the Spirit of religion. The spirit of man’s standards feeding man’s appetite for self-righteousness. The spirit of man leeching a sense of superiority off of those who could never reach their standards. In Adam’s state at the time, he was not meant to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And so we were never meant to possess discernment from good and evil. Thank God through Jesus Christ that He has undone this evil! He is the way back to God, a way which fills us, and liberates us from the otherwise insatiable thirst of feeling the need to fit into a “righteousness standard”. He is our righteousness.
Our response to this is tricky. We will at first be tempted to react to the very nature that we want to condemn. There it is right there: The desire to condemn. It is only a miracle that rescues a heart from this fallen nature, and fill it instead with the Spirit of God. And it’s this miracle that we must pray for in our own lives. Seek Him, but not half-heartedly. His Truth will radically shift the tectonic plates of your heart, and things will crumble. But when you’re finally ready to lose it all for His sake, you will find Him.
They earnestly sought after God, and they found Him.
2 Chronicles 15:15