“You will be like God,” said the serpent to Eve. “Eat this fruit and you’ll be like God, knowing good from evil.” Some have suggested that this original heresy was that godhood could be attained through the gaining of wisdom, that the New Age idea of deified humanity traces its roots back to this moment. Yet the serpent never said that Adam and Eve would become gods. He said they would be like God. His deception was not an invitation to hubris, but the false claim that understanding the difference between good and evil makes a person godlike or godly.
The serpent’s forked tongue is adept at telling the truth and lying at the same time. The lie is that wisdom about good and evil makes a person like God. The truth is that we can become like God (note once more that there’s a difference between becoming godly and becoming a god). We can be like God when we develop such a close relationship with the Lord that we reflect the Maker’s character. Psalm 103 gives a beautiful picture of God’s nature. If we take that nature on ourselves, then we can be like God.
What is God like? God forgives and heals (v. 3). He redeems people, and crowns them with love and compassion (v. 4). God works righteousness for the oppressed (v. 5), and makes His ways known to people (vv. 6-7).
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
If Christians want to be like God, then we have to be forgivers and healers. We have to work redemptively with people, and give them our love and compassion. We need to work righteousness for the oppressed, and make God’s ways known to people. People who want to be like God should be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. Instead of always accusing and harboring anger forever, instead of treating others as their sins deserve, godly people need to be able to separate a person (their inherent worth, dignity, and value) from their sins. They have to be willing to work with a person and help remove their transgressions from them. They need to treat people with tender loving compassion, seeing others through the eyes of the Father, and extending God’s compassion to them.
Yet instead, those who call themselves by God’s name are often the last to behave the way that God behaves. We follow the lie that the serpent gave us, claiming to be godly simply because we have gained knowledge about good and evil. But knowing how to be good doesn’t mean that you’ve become like God. It doesn’t help us at all if we lack compassion and grace, if we are quick to anger and lack love. Knowing the difference between good and evil avails us nothing if we are always angry, accusing others all the time, treating them as we believe their sins deserve and repaying them according to our idea of justice. Knowing how to avoid sin in our own lives won’t help us if we are unable to separate other people from their sin, and if we refuse to help them through their issues. The serpent’s lie makes us very good at being religious, but it doesn’t lead us to godliness at all.
“You will be like God,” the serpent says to us. “Just eat this apple and be religious. Know the difference between good and evil.” The devil is happy with those who are religious, but he is terrified of people who are godly. So he tells a partial truth and partial lie. The lie is that religion can make you godly. The truth is that you can be like God—by finding out God’s nature and acting like Him. But how many Christians are actually willing to do that? I pray that you’ll be one who will—and that when others see you they might see Christ in you.