Like you, I have been thinking about all of this horrible terror that has been occurring around the world. My first thought was how can there be such a dramatic difference in my understanding of God and that of the people committing these heinous atrocities. I mean there is only one God, right? How is it possible to see God and His message so differently? I mean, there is only one truth when it comes to the nature of God, our creation, our relationship with God, and His will for His creations – right? Jesus did his best in trying to express all of that in ways we could understand using parables, teachings and his own life as a model, and from that comes what we call our understanding, Christianity. I am sure that Muslims think the same of their teacher, Mohammad. And the Jews do likewise via Moses and the Prophets. More so, within these groups are sub-groups that are liberal, moderate and extreme. All humans; all provided with the same type of mind. Now, unless God created some of us with a special gift to know His very truth, how could you possibly argue that you are right and others wrong?
Every now and then a situation comes up where Ellie will tell me that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. Why is that? Why are we not able, in a lot of cases, to synchronize our understanding, and actually agree perfectly? I’m sure it has to do in part with our perspective, our interests, our selfishness, what’s in it for us, how we might look to others, our pride, and the gift of free choice with which we were created. It happens all the time. You and I hear or read something and we come up with different impressions and even at times, absolutely opposite conclusions. Earlier this week I was reminded of another reason for this very human condition. (Please understand that none of this is in any way justification for murder, just observation.)
The other day I was flipping around and came across a televangelist. The little I was able to catch was an extremely interesting observation regarding the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden. We have heard the story and its lessons before, but this perspective was new to me. It focused on how we can innocently mislead one another, and how subtly satan uses deceit. Here again are the highlights that make the point:
God instructs Adam as follows in Genesis 2:15:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now it is presumed that once Eve comes on the scene, Adam tells her all about these instructions from God, making sure she knows about the do’s and don’ts of living in Paradise. And after a time the infamous meeting between she and the serpent takes place, and wouldn’t you know it right in front of that darn little ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’. And so it goes. (Note that when confronted, Eve is quick to recite the instructions she got from God via Adam):
…Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said (according to what Adam tells me), ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it or you will die.’”
Now where does that ‘or touch it’ come from? Certainly not what God told Adam. God didn’t say anything about ‘not touching it’. Maybe something got added on by Adam in his haste to give Eve the 4-1-1?…sort of like that game ‘Telephone’. Now the devil has its opening and takes advantage of Adam’s misinterpretation:
…The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took (touched) from its fruit…
(So encouraged by the serpent, she first touches the fruit and what happens? Nothing! Because God did not say she would die if she touched it, only if she ate it. But she did not hear God’s words direct from His mouth. So now she is confused and thinking, ‘Well maybe this serpent is right. I did touch the fruit and nothing happened, even after Adam told me I would die. So maybe nothing will happen if I eat it, also?’). The verse continues:
…and (after seeing that nothing happened when she touched it) ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. Genesis 3:1-7
So this perspective, including the misinterpretation of God’s word, and then satan using that to convince Eve to trust him and not God, is a little more easy to reconcile, at least to me. Adam and Eve weren’t so stupid after all; they were just not good listeners. It reminds me that God’s word can be twisted and used to just the opposite of His intent. And we know that happens all of the time. How else does, “Love your neighbor as yourself” morph into, “Kill people in cold blood if they do not believe what you believe”? God is supposed to (according to who you talk to) have said both as the same. There is obviously a very powerful force here on earth that benefits from us not getting together on the truth about God. Who do you think has the least to gain by having us all know the universal truth about God, our loving Father?
So based on this I think it might be wise for me to read a little of the Quran itself. Not for the purpose of becoming a Muslim, but just to understand what we all have in common. My little understanding is that there are many fundamental similarities between the three main ‘Western’ religions. (Did you know that the Virgin Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the New Testament? Neither did I.) I’ll keep you posted.