Why Turn Around?

Why Turn Around?

by Esther Vandiver

Recently, while talking with an elementary class, I asked this question:  Does the Word of God—His laws, His statutes, His precepts—put up a protective fence between us and evil?  They all agreed that it did.  There is a definite separation between good and evil.  Next I asked them to use their imagination and tell me what they envisioned the fence to be made of and what shape the fence took.  The descriptions of the fence differed greatly:  barbed wire, solid board, white picket, pearl, gold, etc.  But the fence’s shape and function fell in only two categories:  a straight fence, equally dividing all of good from all of evil, and a complete enclosure which fenced us in and evil out.  Well, I told them, I could imagine the fence to be made of most of the materials they had mentioned, but I could not agree with them on its shape or function.

I drew a straight vertical line on the board to represent the first type of fence.  The problem with this type of fence, I said, was that it seemed to divide an equal amount of good from an equal amount of evil.  When asked if this division seemed to accurately describe the way things are, they gave me a resounding  “No!”  If that is not true, I questioned, of which is there more:  good things to do or evil things to do?  “Evil.” they answered in chorus.  Ahh, I said, there again I would disagree with you.  I believe that there are infinitely more good things for us to do than evil.  Satan is not a creative being and his temptations to evil are relatively small and alike.  In fact, if each of us in this room, I said, could know all the things that we were tempted to do wrong, we would be shocked to discover how much alike our temptations were.  And people who give themselves over to evil become more and more alike, not more and more unique.  On the other hand, those who belong to God and take on more and more of the nature of Christ become more and more unique and do very different things from each other.  Since God is so big, His children can be like Him and do His will, living out incredibly different variations of good!

When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, how many things could they do that were wrong?  One.  How many things were there to do right?  The class rolled their collective eyes:  many, many!  But, I imagined, if–before they had disobeyed God—they had climbed that tree and sat in the middle of the branches loaded with the forbidden fruit, things would have looked different.  They could have said, “I can’t eat that, or that, or that, or that. . .”  We would want to shout at them to simply get out of the tree!

I drew a rectangular fence on the board to represent the second type of fence and put x’s inside it to represent us.  Why do you think, I asked, that I don’t believe this type of fence represents God’s protection of us either?  The class understood that it represented the good as much smaller than the evil, and the evil, according to this drawing, extended out forever.  Right!  I erased the x’s and put them outside the fence.  This, I believe, is the shape and function of the fence that God’s Word protects us with.  It is the evil that is small.  His good Kingdom is infinite.  A problem comes when we, as the children of God, stand on the outside of the fence and keep our noses facing the inside of the fence.  Then we say things like, “I can’t do that, or that, or that, or that. . . .”

In the book of Matthew, the first word of Jesus after His victory over the temptations of Satan was “Repent” (English Standard Version, Matt. 4:17).  Now to repent means to turn around.  He wants us to turn around, turning our backs on the evil inside the fence.  Immediately, Jesus tells us why we should turn around.  He continues, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (English Standard Version, Matt. 4:17).  For us, as His children, His death and resurrection has brought us back to the freedom of the garden:  “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (English Standard Version, John 8:36).  The forbidden is the small part, the good choices are infinite.  If you find yourselves continually reviewing all that you are forbidden to do, turn around and rejoice because the whole Kingdom of God’s truth, beauty and goodness stretches out before you.  The possibilities of doing what is good within His Kingdom are infinite—costly, infinite, and of great worth!

The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version.  Wheaton, Illinois:  Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2008.  Print.