Bonhoeffer pointed out in his Ethics that ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ is the root of all religious and ethical systems. Christ, however, came to give us a new life rather than a new ethic or religion (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4; 1 Jn. 5:11-12).
Viola summarises and applies Bonhoeffer’s principle well. As ‘Church’ we are the recipients of God’s uncreated life. As such we are not called to live by a ‘Christian’ religion or code of ethics, but by God’s life. That life is a divine life, the ‘life to the full’ Christ talked about in Jn. 10:10. By contrast, to eat from ‘the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ (Gen. 2:8ff) is to govern one’s life by ‘right and wrong,’ to behave by a standard of ‘good and evil.’ ‘Knowing good does not necessarily mean doing good, as we can all testify! Good is a life-form, and only God is good (Mt. 19:16-17) – at the attempt to be good, man invariably fails (Rom. 3:12).
According to the Scriptures, goodness is not only a life-form but a Person, God himself. Therefore when believers merely seek to ‘be good’ they are eating from the wrong tree, and they succumb to their fallen nature (see in this regard Paul’s struggle as reflected in Rom. 7, where he endeavours to overcome his fallen bias by his own energy). Eating from the wrong tree leads to shame and condemnation (as seen in Adam and Eve, Gen. 3:7-8).
Such failure was never God’s intention for us – he wanted us to share his life, to live in union with himself and express his goodness in the earth. That is what ‘the Tree of Life’ offered. And God has made this possible for all humankind by giving his Son to die for us on the life-restoring tree of Calvary, where he reconciles sinners to himself and places us ‘in Christ’ by grace through faith.
You see, when faced with the situations and choices of every-day life, our mind begins to furiously ask ‘Is this right or is it wrong? Is this good or is it evil?’ In doing so we are eating from the wrong tree. When we strive to be ‘good Christians,’ we make the same mistake. This is not NT Christianity but in fact ‘old covenant living’ and it is very human and Israel-like.
As the Church soon celebrates Easter (Passover) around the world we are reminded of another way, the way of ‘the one new covenant’ introduced by Christ and his indwelling life (Jer. 31, 2 Cor. 2, 3). This is living from ‘the Tree of Life!’ Jesus himself lived on earth by a life not his own (see Jn. 5, etc), and so do we (do read Jn. 15:1-17 in this new light). The divine life that indwells us gives us supernatural instincts, desires and energy to embody the new life of Christ in all we are and do, and in all our relationships (see Col. 3).
The Church at large needs to awaken to her INDWELLING LORD, and so do you and I. Then only will we be empowered to build God’s house and fulfil his grand purpose for the universe in Christ! Col. 1:27, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory!’