The following is a guest post by Luke Larson
“So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.” Genesis 3:23 (NLT)
I remember one time when I was younger some friends and I had a sleepover, which was a pretty regular occurrence at that stage of life. Our usual thing was to stay up late, chips and soda in hand and watch funny movies or play video games. But this time we had a different idea. We decided it would be more fun to take a couple gallons of gasoline and play with fire. We found some plastic swords and had flaming sword fights, we lit a tennis ball and a football on fire and played catch, I even made a flamethrower using a super soaker. It wasn’t until later that I realized the stupidity of having a gas-filled plastic tank on my shoulder while holding a flame to the nozzle. It was only by a miracle I walked away from that night with my ridiculously good looks intact.
The strange thing was, it was invigorating. I wanted to do it again.
The next day I went home and hung out with my family like it was a normal day. However, it wasn’t a normal day. I had done something wrong and I knew it. I didn’t realize at the time, because I was pretty sure that I was as smooth as they come, but mom and dad knew I was guilty too. They didn’t know what I did exactly, but they knew I was guilty nonetheless. Our relationship felt different, there was suddenly a barrier between us that wasn’t normal. They confronted me about why I was avoiding eye contact and why I seemed distant. I cracked immediately, and after a long conversation about how dangerous that was and how I could have been hurt, I found myself grounded for a month with a long list of chores to keep myself busy.
I felt like my freedom was taken away. I felt like the punishment was far greater than the crime. I should be able to do whatever I want to do. Right?
After my disappointment subsided, I began to see a bigger picture. I remembered all of the other times I had been grounded. I could see a pattern that part of me always knew was there.
Punishment and consequence serve as ditches on either side of the road of life. This is true all throughout life, but when you are a kid your parents deliver these judgements. When you grow up, the world does. The main difference is this: your parents love you, the world doesn’t. Not only had my parents been alive a lot longer than I had, they also knew me better than I knew myself. They could see my blind spots and my tendencies to move too fast into them. They could see how my choices would play out over time, I had no such insight.
There are three elements to this story. My choices, the consequences for my choices, and my parents deep love for me.
I made a choice that night to play with fire.
The consequences of that choice involved being grounded, a long list a chores and the feeling that I disappointed my parents. Now what if they had just decided that there was nothing wrong with what I did? I wouldn’t have been grounded, my list of chores and my relationship with my parents would have remained in the ‘normal’ category, and everything would have been ok… At least for a while. At some point though, my misunderstanding of what appropriate behavior was would have gotten me into a world of trouble, and the people deciding the punishment would not be so kind as to simply ground me for a month. Although punishment and consequence from parents might seem like an affront to our freedom, it is actually a great mercy.
The third element to this story is my parent’s deep love for me. No good parent enjoys punishing their children, but deep love cares more about securing a future than avoiding occasional temporary pain.
Why do I tell you this story? Because it is not much different from the story of Adam and Eve being banished from Eden. Their story has the same three elements. Their choices, the consequences of their choices, and their Father’s deep love for them. Many people see God as a deliverer of judgement for judgement’s sake. You might hear a story like Adam and Eve’s and see only his anger. Maybe your perception of God has been mis-shaped by your parents, your friends or someone else. But if you can put everything on the table and recognize the human tendency is to lean more towards judgement than mercy, you might allow yourself to see God in a whole new light. Let’s look at the context around Adam and Eve’s punishment.
Genesis 3:21-22 (AMP)
“21 The Lord God made tunics of [animal] skins for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), knowing [how to distinguish between] good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take from the tree of life as well, and eat [its fruit], and live [in this fallen, sinful condition] forever”
Looking at the context, God wasn’t delivering judgment because he was angry. He was only thinking of his children’s future. They made a choice, and the consequence of that choice was deep shame and guilt and distance from God. I’m not sure why God placed two trees in the Garden that Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from. Maybe God intended to share the fruit with them someday. But the truth is He gave them far more than He withheld. But instead of gratitude, they chose selfishness and pride. God recognized the new fallen nature of his children and had to act to secure a future for them. Had they also eaten from the Tree of life, they would have essentially been in what we know as ‘hell’; Living forever in their sin. God would not make their decisions for them, but He would certainly go to great lengths to protect them from this fate.
Genesis 3:24 (NLT)
“After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
In blessing, trial and consequence, God is always looking out for your future. His love is deeper and more real than anything you have ever known. I hope this example encourages you to dig into His word yourself and look for examples of His love. If you do, I promise you will be blown away as you see God for who He truly is; A loving father who is generous in blessing, faithful in trial, and merciful in consequence.