I decided to start this year by reflecting back on The Start. There was just one rule then – don’t eat the apple. The command was more than that; it was a requirement to let God be their god and men and women to be men and women. It was an unbeatable threesome. God was responsible for everything; Adam and Eve were to just enjoy the garden of Eden and walk through it daily chatting with God himself. They broke God’s heart when they took that fork in the road, going out on their own with a new “friend” Satan.
Next came ten really good rules. The first was a manufacturer’s recall. An opportunity to put things back on the right road. Obedience to Rule Number One was still an individual choice. “God is Lord.” It was a call to accept the Maker of the Garden as the owner, property manager, and ruler of life. If they at least followed these ten regulations things might have been fine. They did not.
Next Deuteronomy was added with over 600 regulations, directives, and laws. Those were accompanied by judges, kings, courtiers, and lobbyists, some with powers of punishment for disobedience. It was not hard to see that life was becoming more complicated, not more simple. The Start rule was still in place, the 10 were still in place, and now there was more; so much in fact that teachers were needed to keep track of them all. They couldn’t possibly be obedient to all of these, given the nature of mankind.
Then came the attorneys. Well educated in all these laws, they would take one side or the other in an argument, representing the interests of those who paid for their services. This did not solve the basic problem. Now contracts had to be drawn to protect the interests of the parties before they cobbled together a deal or an alliance. The attorneys raised concerns that the parties had not considered in their suspicions.
Lately, the changes have been quite radical. It is not enough for individuals to make their own choices. Now governments have decided to protect their own administrative interests and the jobs of those who are required to maintain the rule of law. If we were still in Eden, none of the professions mentioned above would be necessary. When a question arose, we would just turn to God and ask Him, “What do you think of this matter?”
To simplify this new concept, schools began to teach one overarching rule – you are each your own god. It was now unnecessary to consult anyone about what to do. Since you are the ruler of your own destiny, YOU decide whether something is right or wrong. This was a huge shift in responsibility. If there were no absolute right and wrong, then the biggest worry over which someone could be concerned was whether they were going to get caught. A deeper thought in this approach – if I get arrested will the consequences be worse than the advantage I gained?
We now have legal shop lifting, 90 mph speeders on the freeway, rampant out-of-marriage activities producing unsupported children, and a bent to do as little as possible for the common good. Beyond that is a bowing down to the individual’s needs. If I want something and cannot provide it for myself, can’t steal it, and can’t get it on credit, then someone else has to provide it for me. This is the truest elevation of the individual to what Satan promised in the garden. “Just eat of this tree . . . and you will be like God.”
What can be done? We cannot go back into the garden. We cannot un-kill the second son Able, who was killed by the first son Caine. We cannot undo the wars, lies, rapes, and thefts of the past. We cannot even get back the angry words we spoke to someone yesterday. What we can do is change.
Start here, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God, without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” (Philippians 2)
We can only control what each of us does individually. By doing what is right – and by that I mean what is right in God’s eyes – you become an example for others to follow. Those running through the undergrowth in the forest will see you smiling on the right road and may even drift over in that direction and onto that path.