Issue 18 ...

A Garden, A City and Trouble

A City at DuskThe Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. Both the garden (described in Genesis 2) and the heavenly city (described in the end chapters of the Book of Revelation) are seen in idyllic terms. Before the Genesis story of the disobedience of humankind to God, the garden is seen as a place of tranq uility, prosperity and unabated relationship and fellowship. The intimacy of those relationships existed because of the lack of guilt and shame. Not only was there an intimate fellowship between humanity and God but also unabashed intimacy between the woman and the man.

By the time we get to the heavenly city in the book of Revelation, once again there is tranquility, prosperity and unabated relationship and fellowship. There again human beings live in unabated adoration of God and in intimate fellowship with Him and with one another.

There is one thing common to both places. There is no temple or church in either the garden or heavenly city. Temples and church buildings are there to assist the present needs of the world in which we live. The world we know is one that does not know tranquility, prosperity or unabated relationship and fellowship. We certainly have glimpses of these conditions when the church is at its best, and yet the very opposite occurs when the church is at its worst. It is a place where innocence has been shattered and guilt and shame hinder our best efforts to live a good and righteous life. Temples and Church buildings are there to remind us of our obligation to love and serve the living God and provide a resource for community togetherness in our adoration and respect for God.

Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble. That goes for all of us, no matter how faithful and committed to God we might be. Trouble began, whether figuratively or not, when Eve took the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and gave it to Adam to eat. That simple disobedience did not occur out of any need that they might have had, after all the garden was a place of tranquility, prosperity and unabated fellowship and relationship. It occurred because of an innate gift that God bestowed upon human beings - the gift of free-will. It also possibly occurred because of another innate gift bestowed upon us - the gift of curiosity. Just as curiosity killed the cat, the grass was not greener on the other side (sorry to mix metaphors). Through that act of disobedience into this world came trouble.

God could remove all the trouble from the world, but to do that he would also need to remove us. He would have to take back the gift of free-will. That is not something that God wants to do and is certainly not the answer to our problems that we want.

That is, not our free-will. Those other malcontents should probably have their rights annulled, but not us. One thing that is common in the garden and the heavenly city is the presence of the tree of life . Once disobedience had occurred both Eve and Adam were excluded from the garden. The reason given was that they might eat of the tree of life and live forever. In the idyllic scene of the garden, as long as they stayed in obedience to God they lived in tranquility, prosperity and unabated relationship and fellowship, a state in which they could live forever. Once disobedience entered, human beings were excluded from the garden and the potential to eternal life. In John 16 Jesus calls us once again to the love of God that is shown in our obedience to God, His will and purpose. This obedience comes with the promise of eternity, to dwell in the heavenly city with God forever.

Jesus however, also left us with another gift that would enable us to confront the trouble we find in the world and overcome it for good. He gave us the gift of peace, a peace that the world itself does not know. When we hit a crisis in our life we often call upon God to act in the situation to change its impact and effect. However, the first thing that God acts upon to change is us. He calls us to draw upon His peace, a peace of mind and heart in the most difficult of situations. It is as we draw upon that peace that we are enabled by God to deal with our troubles and difficulties and to turn them towards good.


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