It is granted that the lens through which I read these scriptures will not likely be the lens through which you read them. The hermeneutic we choose (or are given without awareness) is the lens through which we read. I have chosen to read scripture starting with Jesus as the perfect representation of God, viewing all scripture in light of Jesus’ demonstration of what God looks like.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
My reading of the scriptures starts with Jesus’ assertion of authority. This is not to claim that this is the objectively “correct” hermeneutic, but to say that this is the hermeneutic that I use, and one that you might choose to entertain for a moment of time in order to gain new perspective. I have been accused of being a “Jesus-dolater” (idolater of Jesus) for this stance. I cannot deny that accusation.
I have not done an exegesis of each passage here (or anywhere else) and I am aware that any passage can be read through a different hermeneutic to lead to a different understanding. This is why our idea of who God is, or our theology, is so important because it changes the way we perceive all other information about God. Jesus boldly claims to be the perfect representation of God, and my theology is based on the claim Jesus makes about himself.
The Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
The beginning seems a good place to start…
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
It is often assumed that after we ate the fruit we gained greater spiritual vision, but that is not stated nor implied in the text. Spiritual death comes from human desire (flesh) to be wise as God is wise, and judge as God presumably judges. The serpent’s promise that our eyes would be opened was a lie. Rather than becoming more like God, we came to function in a manner in conflict with God’s reality. We came to judge good and evil, while God apparently does not use this same scale. Rather than becoming more like God, we became able to imagine ourselves and others as sinful. When God said “Who told you that you were naked?” the question we have to wonder is: Why didn’t God tell them they were naked? Was their nakedness immoral before they ate the fruit? If so, wouldn’t God have said something before? Is God really asking “Why are you feeling guilty about being naked?” The fruit and the fall gave us a perception of evil where there was none to begin with.
How Does God Judge?
Jesus is the perfect representation and complete exposure of who God was then, is now, and always will be.
“[Who] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).
When God’s Word came to us, he showed us what God is like.
“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22)
“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to redeem it.” (John 12:47)
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Our judgment and God’s judgment reflect the difference between thinking with the carnal mind (flesh-ego) gained through the fall, and the Mind of Christ. Perfection in Jesus’ mind is not moral perfection, but mercy. In Leviticus we hear “be holy as I (the Lord your God) am holy” and then from Jesus we hear “be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.” For Jesus, to be holy and perfect is to be merciful.
Part of our trouble comes from our mistreatment of the command to “Repent”. Repent is a poor translation of “metanoia”. Repent carries a connotation of feeling sorry for our sin and changing our behavior. Meta- means “change” or “after” (as in “metaphysical”) and -noia means “mind” (as in paranoia). Metanoia means to be of a new mind, which is in line with Christ’s overall message.
The carnal mind (flesh/ego) is trapped in fear, comparisons and judgment (knowledge of good and evil).
The Mind of Christ is One. Everything belongs. God looks like Jesus, and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ. There is no darkness, no tension and no division in the Mind of Christ.
This is our constant struggle between flesh and Spirit, fallen nature and True Nature, appearance and Reality, etc.
We are invited to change our minds (repent), which means observing our carnal mind’s habit of reaching for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. This knowledge of good and evil is our chosen replacement for the Mind of Christ/The Spirit.
“Marvel not that I say unto you, you must be born from above” (John 3:7).
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:16-21).
But… Jesus Talked About Judgment!
I also want to embrace Jesus’ words about judgment, because these further illuminate the deviation of the path of flesh from the path of Spirit. Knowing that Jesus spoke of judgment is important, but noticing how and to whom he spoke of judgment makes the difference.
In Luke 16:19-31, judgment comes to those who keep themselves comfortable, not considering those who lack the basic necessities. In Luke 18:9-13, judgment comes upon the self-righteous. In Matthew 18:21-35, judgment comes to those who receive mercy, but deny it to others, and in Matthew 25:31-46, judgment comes to those who claim to serve an absent Jesus, but fail to see that Jesus is truly present in the people they live among.
In each case, rather than the emphasis being on God who judges, the emphasis is on the human impulse to discriminate, which by its very nature excludes oneself from the unconditional love and grace that God-Christ-Spirit freely gives.
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
That’s a bold and terrific reality! Notice that when we judge our own behavior, we are more judgmental of others' behavior. When others judge us, the tendency is to judge right back, relieving our own shame.
Jesus was in the business of covering sin, and to follow in his steps, so are we. If we expose sin, we are acting in an anti-christ manner. When we cover sin, and make an appeal for the one suffering in sin, we are engaging in the ministry of reconciliation.
Non-Judgment as a Healing Stance
With this realization, however, another pitfall is discovered. Once one knows how to observe that one is operating in the flesh rather than the Spirit, the ego’s immediate impulse is to judge! Ego is often misunderstood as self-approval, but ego is really about mental preoccupation with one’s own story, separate from the world. That story may be “I am in way better shape than others!” or it may be “I’m never going to get it right”, either way the ego is ready and able to make a judgment about the self and keep itself busy with the story of “me”. These judgments naturally spill out of our inner spring and onto other people. If our own wells are unpolluted, this keeps us from polluting others. Non-judgment is a healing stance, and it is the stance we see Jesus’ taking time and time again.
Observation, or a loving awareness from the posture of the One Mind of Christ is the key to staying open and non-judgmental.
“I’m walking in the flesh.” – that is an observation, and one that immediately offers an alternative, to give preeminence to the Mind of Christ, where everything belongs and every misstep is an open opportunity to rejoin Oneness, because we are in agreement with God, who does not count it against us.
“I’m thinking in a bad way. This happens every day. I’m always falling back.” – this is a judgment, which further condemns and traps oneself in the carnal mind’s carrot-on-a-stick religion, of not being enough or not having sacrificed enough to be One with God.
It’s true also that the ego will fight to keep the territory it has gained. The ego’s job is to be very important. If you choose to see the bad guy as a child of God, the “wise” ego will fight to prove that the person may rightly be judged as “bad”. It will even tell you that God is the one judging them, you’re just the messenger. How different this posture is from the one we see in God’s own Son!
God’s reality is that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. This means that the thoughts of the carnal mind, preoccupied with good and evil, are not the truth. Christ is Truth. For Jesus, morality was not a solution, but a problem. It kept egos busy, kept people out of fellowship with each other, classified and separated… preoccupation with who is “in” and who is “out”, comparisons like “level of anointing” and hierarchy… it is the mind of the flesh which differentiates and discriminates. God is One.
We are able to recognize when we are reaching for the fruit, and there is always a way to - momentarily at least - just say "no" to the carnal mind. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Every time we catch ourselves in that mode of snacking on a tasty bite of knowing what's good and evil we have a choice to put down the fruit. It’s an act of surrender that needs to be repeated regularly, but becomes more and more effortless as we fall deeper into surrender.
If we live each moment and encounter each situation like we chose it, there is no room for evil to reign. Evil depends on our own minds creating and legitimizing it. Good just is, and we can surrender ourselves safely into it. Nothing is more deserving of our trust.
Peace of Christ be with you.