Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to fill it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Genesis 2: 15-17
In this week between units, I will again go to the “Prayer Team Email-bag” for a question submitted by one of you:
When God created our world, why did He allow evil in it? To be more specific, why did God put/allow the serpent in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve?
The simple answer to the first question is that God allowed for the possibility of evil to come into the world. He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil into the Garden of Eden in order to give mankind freewill. God created us out of love. And He wants us to love Him. However, love is a choice. One cannot be forced to love someone. So God put a “choice” in the Garden of Eden in order to keep the relationship honest. Because if God didn’t give man a choice to love God or not, that relationship would be one of tyranny. We would be forced to love, or rather not given a choice about whether to love or not. In placing the tree in the midst of the Garden, God basically told mankind, “I love you and I want you to love Me, but it is your choice, to stay in this place of Paradise or not.” That was a gift that He gave to us.
Mankind was tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree. The result was the Fall of mankind.
We know that God knows everything. God knew that mankind would fall away. So when He created the Garden of Eden, not only did He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He also put the tree of Life, so that if mankind ever did fall away, there could be a way back.
We know that Satan was once an angel, who fell away from God. He chose to leave God’s presence. And so he entered the realm of mankind and began to tempt mankind to go away from God.
These are the things we know. There are things that we do not know. For instance, God knows my destiny, because He knows everything. I do not know how my life will end. What if I do something heinous, harm other people, and fall away from God? So that when my life is over, I will go to eternal condemnation rather than eternal life. If God knows that in creating me, that I am destined to do this, why allow me to be created at all? Why allow people like Adolf Hitler or the terrorists of 9/11 to come into existence? If God knows that they will kill people and not seek redemption, why allow them to be born to begin with? I’m sure there are people much more educated than me who have attempted to answer these questions. I can’t figure out the answers to them, though I have asked myself these questions before.
Again, going to what we know. We know that God loves us. We know that God created us out of love. We know that God wants the best for us. We know that God wants us to attain salvation and eternal life. And we know that we have a choice to love God or to fall away from Him. In fact, we have this choice multiple times a day. Acts of love bring us towards God. Sin is failure to love and acts of sin move us away from God.
I do not know my destiny. I do not know what will happen at the end of my life. I do not know what will happen to me tomorrow. What I do know, and what I will try to choose is to love God and to serve Him today, because this is the day I have.
It is good to ask hard questions. It is good to study and ponder on them. There are answers that will probably always be elusive. However, the answer that is for certain is that God made us out of love and wants us to love Him. Why mankind did not choose that and caused the Fall is not a question we can answer. We can answer for ourselves for what we will do today. We know that God created us to love and to love today. So, let’s go and love Him and one another today.
I will extol Thee, my God and King, and bless Thy name forever and ever. Every day I will bless Thee, and praise Thy name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall laud Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty and on Thy wondrous works I will meditate. Men shall proclaim the might of Thy terrible acts, and I will declare Thy greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of Thy abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His compassion is over all that He has made. All thy works shall give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and all Thy saints shall bless Thee! They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and tell of Thy power, to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of Thy kingdom. Thy Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all His words, and gracious in all His deeds. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to Thee, and Thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest Thy hand, Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The Lord is just in all His ways, and kind in all His doings. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him, He also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love Him; but the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy name, forever and ever. Psalm 145
Love God and serve others today!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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