God put two trees in the garden of Eden: the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life.
Jesus spent His ministry demonstrating and preaching on the Kingdom of God, and He founded His Church to begin the work of establishing it on Earth, under His authority and by the power of His Spirit. Where there is Kingdom rule, the law of sin and death is nailed to the cross; healing overcomes sickness; the truth of God’s word directs our lives, and love prevails in our relationships.
Our first glimpse of the Kingdom of God is right back in the Garden of Eden, where two trees grow. One is the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. God didn’t put it there for Adam and Eve to be caught out; He put it there because its existence is central to the Garden where He wants us to walk with Him. Knowledge of good and evil was always designed to be part of our relationship with God: It grows in the garden of His presence, and it is His to give. Adam’s sin was to eat of it and make it his own. Because Man has eaten of that fruit, he has taken ownership of it, saying “The difference between right and wrong is now mine to decide.” Cast out of God’s presence, Man still takes knowledge of good and evil with him, but now he makes up his own mind about where the lines are drawn.
On the other tree grows the fruit of life. Figuratively, this is the tree of the Spirit: John 6:63 tells us “It’s the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” We don’t read about any fruit on the Tree of Life in Genesis, but we do read about it in Galatians 5 22-23, where Paul lists the different attributes of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. All of this abounds in the kingdom of God, which Romans 14: 17 tells us is “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” This fruit grows on the Tree of Life, not on the Tree of knowledge. God’s fruit only grows on God’s tree. Anything that passes as the fruit of the Spirit but is grown from the flesh is counterfeit and profits nothing.
As Jesus longs to builds His church, the Father longs to restore His garden in the lives of the generation of the second Adam, so He can walk with us again there. For our part, we long to see the beauty and the fruit of the Kingdom of God in our communities. But what I felt the Lord showed me, and the reason I’m writing this post, is this: so often we preach the gospel of salvation and tell people about the Tree of Life, but what we give them is our version of the Tree of Knowledge. Without the Tree of Life, they can’t pick its fruit, and all they are left with is a sense that they are coming under the judgement of our knowledge of good and evil. This is why, I believe, so many people say that they feel judged by Christians: not that we are intentionally judging them, but we are only showing them one tree in the garden, and it’s the tree that tells them that they are wrong.
If we want people to know the fruit of the Tree of Life we need to make sure it is growing in our churches, and we need to make sure that it is planted securely in their own lives so that they can pick from it themselves. Otherwise all we are doing is giving them information. Worse than that, what we are telling them about is something that they cannot have.