[Originally published in the Monroe News on April 28, 2023]
I imagine you might be familiar with the idea of the forbidden fruit. Its origins, of course, come from that all too unfortunate moment in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit. God had forbidden them to eat of the fruit on the tree in the midst of the Garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and after some temptation from the serpent this is the very fruit that they choose to eat. Ever since this terrible fall into sin, we have all been party to history repeating itself as we too partake of forbidden fruit in our lives The true nature of our human nature has revealed itself in that we are constantly drawn to and tempted by the very things which are forbidden for us.
Psychologists have deemed this the “forbidden fruit effect.” They say it boils down to man’s curiosity and this desire to learn about things unknown and to explore the consequences. It also has something to do with our rebellious side and our innate desire for freedom without restraint. Mark Twain once described it “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.”
While this forbidden fruit effect can be seen in many facets of our life from children challenging the limits of their parents authority to us as adults exploring unhealthy relationships, it is perhaps easiest to understand by sticking to the realm from which it all started: food. We spend much of our lives telling ourselves we shouldn’t eat certain foods because they are bad for us. We even make pacts with ourselves to give up certain foods which are particular vices for us. Most diet plans revolve around groups of foods that we choose to deny ourselves with the hopes of improving our well-being.
The problem with the forbidden fruit effect is it takes only the example our first parents in Adam and Eve to prove how easily we give in to temptation. Let’s face it, our will power is just plain weak. The more we toy with the forbidden fruit the more we will eventually partake of it.
What if it didn’t have to be this way?
I’ve heard of a new and growing mindset in the realm of food and dieting that I think is a great response to this and also has applications far beyond food. This mindset takes the opposite approach of the forbidden fruit. Rather than focusing on all the things we must deny ourselves and make forbidden, we focus on the positive and all the things we can and should partake of. With a diet this would involve training our body and mind to desire all the good foods that a body regularly needs. Make our diet focused on the foods we should be eating instead of the focus being on all the things we can’t eat. In this way we are training our mind to a new kind of freedom in which we still get to choose what we want but we have also learned to want more beneficial things.
Not only might this refreshed mindset be beneficial for our bodies, but I believe this is also a Biblical mindset and beneficial for our whole lives. It is God’s desire for us to be free and to live our lives choosing the good and rejecting the bad. Jesus Christ has set us free that we not live our lives as though our only purpose is to fulfill long lists of rules and regulations. Rather, we are called to love. St. Paul captures this thought in Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” And again in verse 10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Twice he notes that it is through love that we fulfill God’s Law.
Love is what God wants for us as that is what God has shown us through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. To love is to be free. To love is to choose that which is good. And not just good in a moral sense but good in an intrinsic sense. We do good things because they are the most beneficial and fruitful things for the lives of all.
This new mindset of living free in love would have us shift our focus from denying the forbidden fruit and instead turn to becoming the bearers of good fruit. Consider a few simple examples: if my life is one that is focused upon loving my neighbor and caring for their well-being, I will never again need to even think about the 5th commandment’s prohibition of murder. Or likewise, if I am generous in my love for my neighbor and helping them improve and protect their possessions, then I will never need the 7th commandment and its command to not steal.
A life living out true love in doing no wrong to the neighbor is a life not only good for us and our neighbor, but a life pleasing to God for we are modeling our Savior’s behavior and bearing good fruit. It is also a life in which we will feel free for we will by the grace of God be willfully choosing all that is good instead of worrying about not choosing the bad.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org