A while back we were talking about creation and the fall into sin in our adult Sunday School class.  During the discussion, one woman spoke up and said something that stuck with me…”God set us up.”  Heh?  Come again?  Oh, she wasn’t saying it with any kind of malicious attitude or anything.  She was just saying that, by putting the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, it appeared that God was setting mankind up for a fall.  He put the tree there, knowing it would be a temptation to eat from it.

Did God really set us up for a fall?  Did He put that tree there as a test to see if we could pass it up?  How fair is that?  That just goes against the unspoken rules of decency.  Everyone knows it just isn’t right to set someone up just so that they will fail.  It’s plain old cruel.

So does that make God cruel?  Can’t be.  He is love.  He is just.  And He is truth.  Those things alone do not add up to cruel.  Since God is not cruel, then we must ask the question:  Did God really set us up for a fall?  The answer is yes and no.

We know from the Bible that God is all-knowing.  Romans 11:33-36 (ESV) – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Since God is all-knowing, then, yes, He knew when He put that tree in the garden that Adam and Eve would eat from it.  But we need to back up further.  God knew before He created the world and everything in it that when He created the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and put it in the Garden of Eden, and made Adam and Eve, and told them not to eat of it, that Satan would tempt Eve, she would eat, and give to Adam, who would also eat.  God knew before He created any of it, that man would need a savior, that He would have to provide that sacrificial Lamb, in the form of His own Son, and that, even after sending Jesus to die in place of the sinful humans He created, that many, many would reject Him, hate Him, and chose to live as His enemies.  Why in the world did God bother??

In the words of my 10-year-old son, “Why didn’t God just click something and make everyone love Him?”  I believe that in that question lies the answer.  Why in the world did God bother with creating a world that would reject Him?  Why didn’t He just make us follow Him and love Him?  Because that is not what He wanted, or wants!  Even from the very beginning…before the beginning of the world, God wanted to have a relationship with us, His creation.  But He didn’t want a forced relationship.  God knew that forcing people to love Him would only lead to a false love.  It wouldn’t be real.  Even if it prevented sin from entering the world, and the forced love did not lead to bitterness and resentment.  It would still be a hollow love.  Love without meaning.  That is not what God wants.  He wants a love that brings with it deep devotion, abiding love that lasts for eternity, and is willing to give to Him everything that we have, because He has given to us everything we have.

This kind of love cannot be created or forced.  The love that God wants from you and me is a love that chooses Him.  When we give Him that kind of love, when we make a conscious decision to love God, He, in turn, promises us the reward of living in eternity with Him.

Now I want to put this in a very large nutshell for you.  Picture this:  God’s real story, a book from beginning to end.  God wanted a people with whom He could have a true relationship, based on a love that was chosen, not forced.  Knowing this, He set about creating a world for people to live in.  He placed a temptation before the people, knowing that they would choose to take it, and separate themselves from Him.  He already had a plan to restore that relationship once the ball was rolling.  It was a plan that was going to take a lot of time, and cost Him a lot of pain in a very personal way.  But He knew that, along the way, there would be those who would choose to love Him.  He planned to let the whole scenario play out as long as possible.  He loved each person that He created and put into the story of the world, even before they were created, and He desired to give each and every one of them the opportunity to love Him.  Eventually, He will close the book on this world, this place that He has built to cultivate people who will love Him and live with Him for eternity.  This earth was never intended to be a forever place.  It was always a time and a place on the way to eternity.  The middle step in God’s plan to create a family who could be with Him, and love Him, and talk with Him, and whom He could love and care for for all of eternity.

For those of us who are Christians, followers of Jesus, people who have chosen to love God, this is cause to praise and rejoice.  If you are reading this, and you have not made that conscious decision to love God, you still can.  God is going to close the back cover to this book very soon.  Most of the story has been written.  The final chapters are being playing out in our lifetimes.  Won’t you chose the God who went through all this trouble, sacrificed His only Son, and has waited so patiently for thousands of years so that you can share in His glory?  He loves you so much.  Chose to love Him.

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.