Adam and Eve just had one rule to follow. It was a simple rule. Easy to understand. I think it’s good things were so simple because they weren’t designed to live by rules anyway. The only rule was – don’t live by rules.
Humans were designed to live by God’s life and presence, directed moment by moment out of a place of relationship and surrender. We were designed to have God as our source. We were designed to love God and to be loved by God.
Love, in order to be love, must be freely chosen. Love that is not freely chosen is not love. Love that is compelled is not love. Love that is forced is not love. Love that is taken is not love. Love, in its very essence, requires freedom: the freedom to choose love.
If there is a genuine freedom to choose love, there must be a genuine freedom to NOT choose love. There must be an option. There must be an alternative. There must be a way to freely exercise the will to choose that which love is not. If humans are to genuinely have the freedom to choose to live by God’s life and presence in moment by moment surrender with God as their source, there must be the possibility of choosing a different source.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was necessary in the Garden of Eden for this reason. This tree is a different source: the knowledge of good and evil. At its worst this kind of living gravitates towards the experience of all things evil. At its best this kind of living strives to avoid evil and do good in an effort to perform correctly and merit God’s favor. The trap of religion is that often it simply entices us to move from an evil branch to a good branch within the same tree. We give up sinful behaviors and adopt new “good” behaviors. Those that do this poorly feel a great deal of condemnation and a deep compulsion to try harder. Those that do this well feel a great sense of superiority and smugness. They are self-righteous.
In either case, this is no way to live. What’s your source?
Genuine repentance doesn’t just change from evil branches to good within the Tree of Knowledge. Genuine repentance switches trees entirely. Genuine repentance gives up all reliance upon self: my knowledge, my understanding, my effort, my performance. Genuine repentance chooses to live by a new source: God’s life and presence.