May 30, 2013

Eden is in our hearts

Every time I complain, it is because I want a perfect place, a perfect situation, not just for me but for everyone. Every time I long for better things without complaining (which is a far better attitude), still I am longing for that perfection that was lost.

We lost Eden because of sin. Adam and Eve were put out of paradise because they disobeyed God. Their home had been a garden where all living things served them and they walked with God. Then they did the only thing God told them not to do, and that was the end of perfection.

Isn’t that perfection memory part of our genetic code? Whether we invent, create, complain, or simply hope, we want Eden back. Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when taught His disciples about prayer.

When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come....” (Luke 11:2)

This is a prayer for the future. We are asking for the perfection we lost to come back, for Eden, but it is also a prayer for a King. When I pray it, I am asking God to reign on earth, that people acknowledge Him as King, that life is according to His commands. I’m not asking to be taken from here to heaven, but that heaven may come down to my world, and that my world becomes like it.

Those who are in darkness concerning the kingdom of God still long for a king. As today’s devotional says, the Israelites associated it with King David. The British perhaps look back to Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The peoples of the world long for a perfect leader, a ruler who will govern us in Eden-like perfection. Of course, there is no such perfection and as soon as we elect a new leader, we are disappointed in his or her decisions. The longing in our hearts is for Eden and a perfect king, but it isn’t being fulfilled. It cannot be until the kingdom of God comes and our King is Jesus. When that kingdom is established and that King is enthroned, we will experience a better Eden than the Eden we have lost.

True, God is King now and the world is His, but by creation mostly. Those who follow King Jesus know that others do not. These others are often as disgruntled with Him as they are with human leaders and authorities. They want perfection, but on their own terms. This is how sin works: “I want my own way.”

The Coming King loves us to death (literally), yet being a king means being in charge. If I am praying, “Thy kingdom come” I am asking Him to rule, not asking Him to give me an Eden where I am the boss. As long as I insist on being in charge, or at least having my way regardless of who is in charge, then I will not have Eden. My sinful selfishness will ruin it, just as Adam’s disobedience ruined the first Eden.

What makes the difference between having what I want and having the perfection of Eden? It is the love of God that knows and gives what is best for His subjects, but receiving it involves faith in His subjects. If I do not trust Him, then no matter what kind of world I live in, I will complain and want things done differently, supplied differently, organized differently. It was in perfection that Satan convinced Eve her life was not good enough without that forbidden fruit. Sin also convinces me that no matter what I have, it is never good enough.

Eden (and God’s kingdom) is about being content with the supply of God. Yes, there will be a future day and a future kingdom when and where that supply is without trial, sorrow, pain and sin, but even now — with the abundance of all those negatives — it is possible to taste Eden. I can do it, not by gaining perfection, but by being thankful for what I have because I trust the King, the One who has given it to me.

… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

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