Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” 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. 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. (NLT)
We don’t need much reminding that things are not as they should be in this world. While we don’t ignore or downplay the beauty and goodness of our world, neither do we ignore or downplay the ugliness and evil.
And all this can be traced back to those first human beings who made an arrogant declaration of independence against God. They wanted to do things their way, and every human being since that time has followed the same path. And in a perverse sort of sense, we have indeed got our own way.
The ancient story recorded in Genesis describes (probably in a metaphorical way) how God sought to put these loved but wayward humans in their place. He would not give up on them or desert them. But no longer did they have that perfect communion with him that was their original birthright.
This story tells us that there is no way back to Eden. But this isn’t the whole story. There is a way back. Our rebellion against God has been dealt with by Jesus. The tree of life is made available to us once again through who Jesus was and what he did. The story of human rebellion is just one chapter of a bigger story.
Our declaration of independence saw us banished to an imperfect, East of Eden world. A declaration of helpless dependence on the mercy of Jesus will see us back to that perfect world. Banishment is replaced by belonging.