A few years ago my job took me to Savannah and I stumbled across a book entitled “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Although some sections of the book were humorous, most of the book dealt with the evil doings of the main characters.
After tossing around several ideas for something to write about, I decided to discuss gardening from the standpoint of the goodness.
Until Lu and I got married in 1999, I was living alone in a single-wide trailer and I told everyone that God was my gardener. My “lawn” consisted of dead leaves and pine straw. The assorted daffodils, tiger lilies, dogwoods, and azaleas were the result of efforts made by the former occupants of the property. Needless to say, my bride changed all that.
Now we have rock treatments, flowers galore, and a real lawn to aerate, mow, water, and fertilize. We also have a much larger home sitting in the midst of the beautiful gardens. The way I see it, God is still the Master Gardener. He simply found a way to get me to do some of the work.
It’s impossible to talk about God and gardens without thinking of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Personally, I don’t think God threw them out. I think they left on their own because they were ashamed – they had let God down. Although many wonderful things surrounded them, they couldn’t avoid the one thing from which God had asked them to stay away.
To this day, humanity seems drawn to that which has been labeled taboo. I think God knows that as well as we (if not better!) and loves us too much to inflict such a severe punishment when we fall to such temptations.
Consider the sequence of events after Adam and Eve fled the garden and struck out on their own. They bore children and suffered a parental nightmare – one of their children murdered his brother. As mankind spread, so did evil. Wars, famines, and all sorts of problems confronted the humans who refused to return to the love of God.
God decided to offer some guidance. He called Moses to meet with him on Mt. Sinai and sent him back down with a list of ten rules. While many people continued to ignore God and his guidelines, the leaders of the Jewish religion took those ten rules and added a few hundred of their own.
Considering how difficult the Jewish leaders made it for the people to be “Holy”, God probably threw up his hands in exasperation. He could have given up on us at that point, but instead, he decided to try something different. He sent his son.
Jesus came with the mission of healing the rift that had developed between God and humans. He tried to explain that the Law of Moses was all well and good, but people had to look beyond the law and do what was right for the sake of love. In fact, Jesus basically said, “If ten rules are too difficult for you to follow, try two: Love God and love one another.”
Think about that. If all of us acted out of love for each other and love for a loving God, how much sin would be left? Could a person steal from someone he or she truly loved? Could a person get extremely angry with someone he or she really loved? Could such a person kill that loved one?
How many rapes would occur? How many wars? How many prisons would we need?
Jesus came with a message and simpler commandments, but humans still couldn’t believe that God loved us enough to take us back to the Garden of Eden.
In one instance, Jesus specifically told us to ignore one of the Laws of Moses. He told us to forget “an eye for an eye”. Instead, we should “turn the other cheek.”
The “eye for an eye” business was an interesting Old Testament slant on restitution. To put it in modern terms, if someone accused me of stealing his car and I could prove that the car was never his, he would have to give me his car as retribution for his lying. An eye for an eye and a car for a car. Whatever the liar was trying to get from the defendant would be his penalty… if he were caught in the lie.
When the Jewish leaders told lies about Jesus, they wanted his death. Had Jesus spoken up and proved that they were lying, the Jewish leaders would have been put to death. Jesus had told his followers to “turn the other cheek”. He could do nothing less.
When he was hung on the cross to die, God experienced the same sort of horrendous grief that Adam and Eve must have felt when one of their children murdered his brother.
God loved the murderers just as much as he loved Jesus. Because He chose to give us free will when he created us, he could do nothing but watch in horror as Jesus died. And yet, he used his dying son to try once more to tell us how much he loves us.
“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Over the centuries many men have used the name of God to commit countless atrocities. Senseless killings in the name of God, Allah, or whatever name the killers choose deny the true nature of the creator of our universe. It’s easy to blame the problems on religious leaders who either encourage the killings or do nothing to condemn them. But we all have a responsibility for our own actions. If we truly believe that God wants us to be a peaceful and loving people, we all have the duty of spreading the word.
May the sun rise over your garden of goodness as you come to recognize the love of God.