This is written by a Horizon ministry partner in Asia
And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 (ESV)
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:17 (ESV)
If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you’re probably seeing many pronouncements like the Keto diet is good. The Atkins diet is bad. This political view is right. This political view is wrong. This person is good. That person is evil. The list goes on and on. Usually I’m not bothered as I scroll through and occasionally hide the opinion that seems to scream the loudest; but recently, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw one Christian attacking – and even condemning – another person they didn’t even know. I immediately thought back to the Garden of Eden, to the root of our Fall.
Most of us imagine only one tree in the Garden of Eden that had forbidden fruit. I guess it’s because Adam and Eve only ate from one of the trees – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — and were banished from the garden before they could eat from the other – the tree of life – which would have given them an everlasting state of brokenness. Nevertheless, God had not intended humanity to be little judges, but that’s what we became. Now, in our fallen state, we look at things all around us and proclaim what we think is good, bad, holy or evil. Of course, this leads to something worse, which is our condemning other people based on our judgements. We would do well to heed the words of Jesus when he said “judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). But this is so hard for us, because judging things and others is at the core of our being, which is a heart of stone. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can have a “spiritual heart transplant” by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel foretold this: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statues and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
Jesus is the perfect example to follow. In John 5:21 we learn that “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son.”Jesus has all authority to judge. But we also know from John 3:17 that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but in fact, to do the opposite – to save us. So rather from “eating” from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Jesus “feasts” from the tree of life, which produces a life-giving nature. When he finds the woman who had been caught in adultery, he doesn’t follow the Old Testament law which would have condemned her, but he said to her, “neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11b). While Satan loves to accuse and shame, Jesus lifts the head of the brokenhearted (Psalm 146:8).
Now I know what the devil’s advocates (pun intended) are thinking: “but what about when Jesus cleansed the temple and when he delivered the woes to the Pharisees? Was he not judging them?” I believe the cleansing of the temple was fueled by Jesus’ love for Gentiles. The outer courts were where Gentiles could come and seek God. Jesus said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). What Jesus was condemning was the exclusion of the “outsiders” into the Temple, and he put a stop to it, as should we when we encounter similar situations. When it comes to the Pharisees, I believe Jesus’ great love for them emboldened him to reveal their greatest fault – that they had crowned themselves judges over the people, leading to the addition of rules that they made up and enforced, and this role was never intended for them. Even worse, what about the people who crucified Jesus? Did he condemn them? I think most of us will remember the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:33).
Should we have principles? Absolutely. Should we discern what’s right and what’s wrong? You bet. Should we help correct others when they make bad choices? Sure. But the lesson from these texts is that we should walk by the Holy Spirit and live a life like Jesus, one that is always life-giving. When we are tempted to judge someone else, we can be reminded of the two trees in the Garden of Eden and choose the tree of life. Choose to say, “you are forgiven.” “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” “I will bless you rather than curse.” “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Closing Prayer for Christians: “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your boundless love and forgiveness. Thank you for not condemning me but redeeming me as your child. By the power of your Holy Spirit, help me be like Jesus and proclaim life to those around me. When I am tempted to judge or condemn others, please help me to forgive and to bless, rather than to curse. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Closing Prayer for those who aren’t sure if they’ve had a “Spiritual Heart Transplant”: “Dear God, I am so sorry for judging others. In fact, that’s all I find myself doing. I want to forgive, but I don’t know how. Please change my heart like the verses in Ezekiel. Please accept me as your child. I’m sorry for all the wrong things I’ve done and I trust in Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. I am thankful for his death in my place, that I can become a new person and have everlasting life. I’ve been told you love me, so please help me accept and know that love. Please replace my shame with the confidence of your salvation. May your Holy Spirit guide me now and always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”