by Pastor Yvonne Williams
The capacity for good and evil lies in the soul of all of us simply because we partook of that proverbial tree at some point in our lives—we missed the mark when making choices that left us wishing we’d decided to go in a different direction—and disobeyed what we knew to be the right choice. We were driven by our lower nature, the part of us that strives to build and protect an acceptable image that enables us to feel loved. We dress in the current style so we can boost our ego. We say the right things to get compliments. We attract flattery that builds our sense of worth, and by doing so, we are simply building an invisible prison around our soul.
At the same time, all of us struggle to break out of those prisons to find our intrinsic worth—to subconsciously escape the need for societal acceptance, boxes, and labels. There is no peace behind the bars we build. Our constant struggle to become whole within ourselves can weary us. We believe that if we are good enough, life will be a bed of roses. Yet, unless we come to know that the fruit on the tree of good and evil are one in the same—that the tree of life is our menu—we will remain behind the bars we have built, ever searching, ever wondering, ever living below the level we were intended. Bars separate us one from another. However, the prison serves a purpose. It forces us to confront the issues of life. And, should we take the challenge to sincerely examine who we are while in this prison, we will walk out, free, with no regret and with no parole.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
So, what exactly is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Of course! It’s that tree that Adam and Eve ate from that religion tells us forever marks us with no ability to be perfect; that we will never be perfect until we die and get to heaven. Hogwash!! That makes death our savior and deliver and not Jesus Christ. Christians use it as a means of excusing our bad and sinful behavior often touting, we are simply sinners saved by grace; we cannot rise above this solely because of what two other people did approximately 2,017 years ago.
Trying to address the evils in the soul of humankind takes a lot of energy. It can break someone who is not in tune and in line with spiritual principle and standing on a firm foundation, with a defined vision and mission. If we are to truly engage in healing one another, we cannot create more boxes that define us and separate us. We must first gain the understanding that we are not fighting persons, rather, we are working to bring us all to a higher place of understanding and ultimately of living; that the battle is not person to person and that there is no war.
Separating us into categories of good and evil is a mirage or a smokescreen that distracts us from the greater within, the higher purpose. Our capacity to reach deep inside ourselves is vast, but many of us do not take time to make the discovery because we are comfortable with the notion that I am good and you are evil (or I am evil and you are good) and therefore, I am justified in my actions and thoughts toward you, no matter which side of whatever fence we are both straddling.
Debates about when we become Christians, and about whether we are or aren’t, have little or no merit. The early followers of Christ gave themselves that label to let those who were still practicing religion under the Jewish law know that they were now listening to the gospel of the kingdom—good news—of Jesus and were no longer listening to the rulers of religious law. What proves who we place our faith in is not the labels we wear, but how we live our lives one toward another.
Good and evil are in all of us until that moment when we allow it to be purged from our hearts by the Spirit of God. In the parable of the sower, Jesus says, “Let them [the weeds and the grain] come up together till the getting in of the grain; and then I will say to the workers, Take up first the evil plants, and put them together for burning: but put the grain into my store-house” (Matthew 13:30, Bible in Basic English). The implication in a spiritual sense is what we experience when we have that moment of true deliverance of the heart. The good seed of Christ lives within us as well as the evil (means twisted) seeds of the lower nature, until the day that Spirit decides it is time to gather the grain imbedded in our lives. He not only sets us free from an evil nature but a good one. He fills us with the Christ of Himself. Jesus is life. He even told the Pharisees not to call him good, “for there is none good but one, that is God.” Matthew 19:17. He was referring to the soul of humanity that is not good, neither is it evil. Just as we are not defined by the evil that has been done to us, we are not defined by the good we have done. It is the deeds that are good and evil, not persons.
So why good and evil to begin with? For those who read and study the Scriptures and have a miniscule understanding of the creation story as recorded in scriptures, we know that God told Adam, “You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.” (Genesis 2:16–17, Good News Bible). The root word for die is muth. It means figuratively or literally. Basically, as soon as their eyes were opened due to their disobedience, Adam and Eve became divided souls—divided within themselves—and covered the most intimate aspects of who they were to one another. This caused them to be divided within themselves, divided with each other, and divided with God. Before, there was no division in their souls or with one another. They were one.
We tend to focus on the word evil when it comes to that infamous tree, failing to recognize that good is also a fruit that causes death once we partake of it—death to the freedom we had before we understood the dichotomy of the two. Once we have partaken of goodness, attitudes of self-righteousness, arrogance, superiority, prejudice, separation, and the like also become embedded in our soul. These attitudes are much harder to break than those forged by what we perceive as evil acts. We have now entered a state of division in humanity, that of good and evil, and we have become separated one from another. The separation is death on both sides. Neither is walking in true life—zo`e—the life that was ours before we chose disobedience.
What can we see from this scripture that can aid us in understanding? First, that God told Adam not to eat from that tree. To eat something means that we take it into our body as a form of nutrition to help us grow and remain healthy. The foods we eat combine with elements in our bodies and become united. The parts of food that are not absorbed for nutrition are typically passed through the body, however, we do know that even bad elements in our foods can stay in the body and cause sickness and disease. Eating / partaking of something alludes to becoming united with it, joining with it, or consuming and devouring it (the root meaning of the word partake).
The Tree of Life
In the earliest stages of humanity’s evolution (as we know it), Adam was in the garden with Eve, the devil, and all the other creatures, with the plants and trees, and had no sense of good or evil whatsoever. This devil that Christianity is consumed with was standard operating equipment that came with the creation of the garden. The concept of harm was not in human consciousness because there was pure communion with God and nature. All were one.
The fullness of God is love. The fullness of love is life. Once we realize our potential to become love as God is and embrace our true identity, we will heal the very soul of those we have separated into the boxes of good and evil, primarily our own self, first.
Despite being people of faith, our struggles are paramount. Once we come into faith we immediately move to the “good” side of the world. If we think we are the “good” ones in society, should not the existence of faith create a climate less conducive to the issues of our day? It is a paradox that needs attention. The dichotomies of love and hate, dark and light, night and day, good and evil are in realty one and the same. It is only when the stronger state swallows up the weaker that we experience the annihilation of the lesser and it is rendered nonexistent.
The reality is that God—who will not be boxed in by any religion, denomination, doctrine, or theology—is love and gives himself to all humanity. We are created with the ability to live face to face with others regardless of their state representative of good or evil. God does not see good and evil. He sees Himself in all of creation.
When we profess that we are people of faith, people will be sent into our lives who need to experience God. After all, we say we are a part of Him. When we respond in a manner not consistent with who we say we are, people grow hard and move away from what they most need. This is the fallacy of good and evil; the hypocrisy of our faith.
When we come to Jesus and begin to walk as he walked, we make the choice to not eat of the tree of good and evil, rather the tree of life, which is Christ. To do that, we must cut down the tree of good and evil within our minds, come out of the boxes that separate us, and become one with the heart of God. We must walk in his ways.
Love is not representative of good or evil. If I do good, that does not mean I can love; if I do evil, that does not mean I cannot love. Conversely, if I do evil that does not mean I am not loved and if I do good that does not mean I will gain love. Should we reject this reality, the power of the Holy Spirit to bring restoration to all of humanity, we are sitting in the seat that would deny the power of love. This is anti-Christ, partaking of the tree of good and evil (see Genesis 3:1-6 to know how the devil deceived Eve by manipulating the truth of God’s word).
We can recite the Scriptures, talk about them to others, and preach the love of Christ until our breath is gone. But until we are tested by the very words that we speak, we do not know the truth that created them.
The Gift of Choice
The following quote is what a precious person who responded to a post I wrote about moving from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to the tree of life. “We don’t have the freedom to reject sin. It’s passed down thru generations and sometimes put on to those who are innocent such as child sexual abuse victims. Without sin, how could God show us his amazing grace and mercy; how would we actually experience joy without pain? It’s impossible. Everything works towards his Glory and awesomeness. Let me rephrase we don’t always have the choice to reject sin.”
While there is an element of truth to her idea—at times it seems that we have no choice in the things we do—if we believe this is all there is, we are reduced to puppets. Romans 7:15-17 explains this reasoning. “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Puppets we are not. It is the lower nature in us that was made alive when we disobeyed. It’s the lower nature of the flesh—not the devil—that controls our lives if we do not make the choice to overcome it. When we change from eating of the tree of good and evil and partake of the tree of life, we make choices daily. The more we chose the tree of live, the more the results of eating from the tree of good and evil will dissipate. But, we must choose, one issue at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time until the flesh nature has been swallowed up in life and no longer exists. Then we truly have no choice but to love because we have become love.
Let’s look at it this way. When we come to Christ sincerely, it is then that we really become divided. The old lower nature is still present, fighting with the new nature of life in Christ. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20 we are told to choose life. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD share unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Even in the old testament God told us to choose life. He did not tell us to choose to be good.
When we are in Christ, in life, we have the ability through the Holy Spirit to crucify our lower nature so we ultimately grow into the fulness of life. It is then that we see through the eyes of Jesus and recognize the Christ nature in all of humanity—not good and evil—and therefore, possess the ability to bring others into the transformational experience that Jesus has for all of humanity. For this purpose, He came: to give us life, to show us the father, to show us who we really are—who we have been from the foundations of the world.
Regarding having the freedom to reject sin simply by reason that our forefathers sinned—or Adam and Eve sinned—is not the full understanding of the scriptures that birthed this ideology. What the scriptures are telling us is, until we do choose life, the lower nature will control us, as the lady said, “we don’t always have the choice to reject sin”. When we choose Christ, we break that curse that has been visited to the third and fourth generations as the scriptures tell us. If we remain in the belief that we have no power of our own choices, the generational issues remain.
We do indeed have a choice. It is the greatest gift God has given us. When we give others the choice to make decisions we allow them the ability to grow. If we take away that choice—even the choice to fail—we remove from them the very essence of who they are. It is then that they become puppets and lose the ability and gift of spiritual growth.
We have a choice in how we view ourselves and our human family. If we choose life, we see Christ in others, that which lies buried beneath the lower nature. If we choose to see others as good or evil (death) we will condemn them to punishment and continue to partake of the tree of good and evil.
PS. The word “sin” was ascribed to the people in Jesus’s day as the unlearned and illiterate, not always because of good or evil as it suited the religious Pharisees, or even breaking the laws of the land. So, we can deduct that “sin” is not understanding who Jesus Christ really is and who we really are. We are illiterate in the knowledge of our own faith. John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”