Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Freedom and Its Limitation

I've been rereading the story of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden in Genesis chapters 2-3 in preparation for a Lenten study book I'm writing. What a marvelous story!

There are two trees in the center of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God tells Adam (a generic Hebrew word meaning "the man" or "human") that he can eat of every tree in the garden except for this latter tree because he will "die."

Since we know the end of the story, the death from eating the fruit of this tree isn't physical death, but the "death" of harming one's relationship with God through disobedience.

A detail I noticed in this rereading was that Adam and Eve were given permission to eat of all trees, including the tree of life. What great freedom they are given! Their freedom has only one limitation: the prohibition of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

What I take from this story is that humans have been given an amazing amount of freedom. Yet, this freedom comes with the limitation of using it responsibly. When we are irresponsible with the exercise of our freedom, it is curtailed. In the Genesis story, the consequences for their misuse of their freedom is to leave the garden of Eden. Paradise lost.

This ancient story of freedom and its limitation is repeated again and again in our lives. Here's the good news. Even though Adam and Eve must leave the garden, God doesn't leave them. God is with them as they toil to survive. So is God with us in our daily living even when we are irresponsible.

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