Once upon a time, the cosmos began.
Everything was spoken into existence.
Out of nothing: worlds, moons and stars were commanded to become and bedazzle.
Big bangs of energy. A myriad of matter.
Dust settled on the tiny planet Earth, and a sun rose in the east.
For what seems like an eternity, light from that small star has blinked across the planet’s surface, as it endlessly pirouettes around her.
The cosmic dance that makes life possible.
On a certain place on the Earth’s surface, there was a hotpot of life.
A garden, a growbag full of seeds, a place heaving with potential. Plants and animals made to multiply, adapt and live all across its surface, from the highest peaks to the deepest underwater trenches.
Humans walked that luscious land. The soft, moist soil curled up between their toes as they ran between the trees, discovering some new creature or plant at every turn.
We tend to think humankind’s first steps on our barren, lifeless moon were incredible. These steps were incredibler. Times a billion.
Times a billion squillion.
The God who commanded the cosmos into existence wasn’t finished. He had a bit more to say. He wasn’t a one-time artist, who finished His work and moved on. He didn’t set things in motion and sit back to see how they would turn out. He cared about what happened next.
And He started speaking to us.
Some of His first recorded words to a human being are these:
‘You are free.’
Free to eat from any tree in that beautiful garden. The planet is yours — roam it and care for it as you will. Meander the meadows, swim the seas and dance wherever you please.
Have many children. Enjoy every moment. Fill the Earth with life!
Again: You are free. Free to eat any fruit you want from any tree in the garden, including the magnificent tree of life that stands at its centre.
There is one, single exception: the fruit of the tree that grows beside the tree of life. You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you do, you will certainly die.
Did you spot that?
That was not a death wish. God doesn’t want you to die. He did not make you in order to watch you come to a sticky end. This is not some twisted game. He cares enough to warn you. He gives you the reason why.
God wants you to live free. He doesn’t want you to die.
But that particular forbidden fruit looked so good and — from the name of the tree — it would be reasonable to guess that it was a source of wisdom. Why wouldn’t we want it? It seemed to promise a better, cleverer life. We could do with some wisdom to know what to do with this planet. We could determine our own destiny. We could be like gods.
The clue was in the name of the tree. Wisdom from the fruit went both ways — good and evil. Not just wisdom for making the planet a better place, but wisdom to do evil in this wonderful world.
The mouth that commanded the universe to be had already told us what one bite would cost: certain death. Certain death in a world that was made to live.
Our ancestors bit anyway. They despised the one limit to their freedom and rebelled against the one who made them free in the first place.
Their freedom fell so far and so fast, it’s a wonder we continue to use the word at all.
Freedom?! Do we have any idea what ‘freedom’ is?
We can’t go to the one place we really want to be. Cut off from the garden teeming with life and cut off from the great gardener who made it.
Outside the garden, the soil was not so moist and fertile — dust and dirt met their feet. Finding food would be harder work.
This world was not going to be kind to them any more. They now trod the ground like unwelcome guests, trespassers on someone else’s planet, with little hope of a future and without God in the world.