The Elusive Knowledge of Good and Evil

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“You won’t really die,” the serpent hissed. “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God. You will know about good and evil.”

What the serpent said made sense…maybe Eve was just confused. Maybe she had misunderstood God’s original instructions. The fruit was lovely to look at, and it would make them more like God. Why would God keep this knowledge from them? Surely, eating the fruit was the right thing to do…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil offered an elusive promise.

Forgetting she was already made in God’s image, and thinking she was becoming more like God, Eve listened to the serpent’s words. Deceived, Eve believed she was making the good choice. Ironically, choosing to disobey God and eat from the tree immediately perverted the knowledge Adam and Eve gained.

As humans, we now have the capacity to know good and evil, but can we really differentiate between the two? I’m honestly not sure we can.

Think about these examples.

Growing up in an ultra-conservative version of Christianity, many normal behaviors were considered evil. Listening to rock music, dating, going to college, women wearing pants, men growing beards, being friends with the opposite gender, women working outside the home… All of these things were bad, not to mention going to movie theaters, drinking alcohol, getting tattoos, multiple piercings, etc. It was a long list.

If you don’t come from a conservative background, this list of “evil things” seems ridiculous. But, look at extreme versions of any religion and you will find the same scenario. In a frenzied desire for holiness, normal, good things become evil.

The opposite is also true. People call plenty of hurtful, damaging, truly evil things good. I don’t need to make a list of the behaviors and attitudes we see in our world, because just reading that sentence brought them to your mind…


We know that there is such a thing as good and evil, but our ability to distinguish the two has been perverted.

It gets worse.

In our brokenness, we not only want to classify behaviors as good and evil, we also want to classify people. This is where we really screw things up!

Differences can be scary and uncomfortable. We don’t like that feeling. If you are different than me (in your beliefs, your actions, your looks, etc) you must be wrong…you must be bad. It is true that sin has broken people and some of them are unfortunately controlled by evil. But, different isn’t the same as evil. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different. And that’s okay!

Then there’s motives.

Motives can make good behavior evil. Prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, Scripture memorization, giving, serving…all of these things are good, right? Not when they are done to gain something, or to prove something, or to pridefully show off spirituality. When our motives are evil, then our good actions are no longer good.

But, people can also do bad actions with good motives. If the bad things they do are motivated by a desire for justice, or because of intense hurt, are they really bad? Does it make them bad people?

Are you confused yet?

This is kind of a depressing blog post, Christy. The world, and the people in it, are really messed up!

They are. It is. It’s a mess. A dark, confusing, depressing mess. But into that darkness came a Light.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:9-11.

Jesus lived as the only perfect person to walk our little planet. He defied human laws, norms, and expectations. He loved people no one else would look at. Everything he did was right and good, even though sometimes it looked wrong. He was God in a human body, but the religious leaders said he was possessed by the devil. They missed the Messiah because he didn’t fit their ideas of good and evil.

These religious leaders murdered an innocent man, convincing the Roman’s to crucify him even though they couldn’t find fault. And yet, that horrific act of evil was the best thing that ever happened. Because, as Jesus drew his last breath, as his blood dripped down, He provided forgiveness for the world. He became our Savior.

It’s broken, you guys. We are broken. The sooner we realize that, the better off we are. We desperately need Jesus. He is the only hope. The good news is, we can have Him! He offers Himself as a free gift for the taking. 🙂

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:11.

It gets better!

Jesus didn’t leave us alone. The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ very Presence, comes to dwell within everyone who believes! Not only does the Spirit convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8), He also gives us the power to live (Romans 8:10).

But, how should we live? How do we know what is right and wrong? Does it really matter? When asked about the greatest commandment in the law, ultimate list of right and wrong, what did Jesus say?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:36-40.


“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:2.

Since we are terrible at truly discerning good from evil, and our fixation on correct behaviors only brings death, maybe we should focus instead on love. How can I love God with everything I am? And, how can I truly love my neighbor? If we are genuinely seeking to love God and others by the power of the Holy Spirit, I don’t think we can go wrong. 🙂

How do you think focusing on love instead of behavior would change you?




6 thoughts on “The Elusive Knowledge of Good and Evil

  1. Love in its genuineness is enough religion to contain mankind. We’ve equally succeeded in defiling this awesome thing (love) we claim to profess always by doing the exact opposite of all it stands for. Thank you for reminding us of the impact we would make when we love right…

  2. No disrespect for your grandpa, but I honestly wonder if throwing away the old-time religion is not exactly what we need to do. My elderly mother has the same fears (and I’m old enough to be your mother!). It is very threatening to most believers, who have been brainwashed to believe that ‘The Church’ is synonymous with the Body of Christ, to suggest that ‘The Church’ is merely a man-made institution. One which we may, at will, choose to reform or even (horrors!) abandon if it impedes rather than assists our pursuit and understanding of God.

    It is threatening to indoctrinated believers of every age to consider throwing off the hallowed traditions and institutions of Religion. But isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? Nor did he attempt to establish a new hierarchical, authoritarian institution in its place, but a genuine, egalitarian fellowship made up of all sorts of people who were encouraged to treat one another as equals. The apostles were commanded to not be like the Gentile ‘rulers’ who lorded it over others and exerted authority (threat of punishment) over them.

    They never set forth the ‘New, Improved Law’ which was to replace the old law which was nailed to the cross. Jesus kept it very simple: ‘Love God and love others’. He proclaimed the Priesthood of believers – the freedom of the individual to pursue knowledge and understanding by the leading of he very Spirit of God who dwelt within them. This has always been the greatest threat to those who assert ‘authority’ over God’s people. It is important to understand that ‘authority’ means ‘the right to compel by force’, which the apostles were never given, nor sought to wield over the newly formed body of believers in Jesus.

    It was Constantine who effectively co-opted this indefinable and uncontrollable motley crew and compelled them to bow to the authority of the new state/church. This is little different from today’s ‘Church’ except for the removal of the sword. Those who resisted what they properly viewed as illegitimate authority were deemed ‘heretics’ and summarily dealt with, often leading to tortuous death.

    Yet few modern churchgoers even know this history. My mother freely admits she is completely ignorant of such things, but just knows she needs to go to church. How does she ‘know’ that? Beginning with Constantine, it has been drilled into human consciousness that only so-called ‘Christians’ who attend the ‘True Church’ are approved by God and allowed into heaven.

    To challenge this entrenched indoctrination is extremely difficult, and threatening to those under its power. I try to explain to my mother that my problem is not with God, but with the Institutions of men who claim ownership of him!

    I really appreciate your heart and enjoy your writing.

    • I absolutely agree with you. In fact, I have recently started feeling like it is time for a new reformation/revival. Not a complete throwing off of the past, because we can still learn wonderful things from our Christian heritage…but a renewal and reawakening. After all, the theologians who challenged and changed Christianity in the past were just people seeking for truth. Why can’t we do this in our time?

      I’m not saying we ditch Christian tradition and make up our own ideology, and I don’t think you are either. We need to relearn for ourselves who Jesus is, who God is, what salvation is, and what that means for our lives today. The God whoes name is I AM doesn’t need “old time religion” because He is present and active now. 🙂

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