I found myself thinking about what it means to have free will this afternoon. I reflected on its importance in our walks with Christ. I know free will makes our love for him important. God could easily make us love him, but that would eradicate the meaning of that love. He chose to love us and in order to receive that love we must choose to love him back. It is the same between people.
So, I started to think about our free will and what that looks like in our daily Christian lives. And I will start with some thoughts on Adam and Eve.
THE FIRST FREE WILLED MAN
“Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.”
When God created Adam he made him special. He was unlike anything created before him. The fish and the birds acted on instincts. The animals did not have the ability to create art and music. Adam was like God because he could understand things like love and justice.
I often think about how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, but it could not have been long. Eve was never pregnant in the Garden and scripture says that Adam was 130 years old when his children were being born. That means one of the first free will choices made in the world was a poor one.
Remember that awesome scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It is when the evil Nazi guy is picking the cup that may be the Holy Grail so he could gain eternal life, but he is warned to “choose wisely”. However, he “chooses poorly” and shrivels up and dies. That reminds me of Adam and Eve. They chose poorly and the shriveling up and dying part is sin entering the world.
My point is that they had free will and choose to eat the fruit. So, now we live in a world of sin and need God’s grace in order to be made whole. The free will that made Adam and Eve special is ingrained in us. Having a choice in how we act makes us special, too. We can choose apples over oranges. We can choose anger over peace. We can choose life over sin, but the fact we have free will is what makes us special.
Back when I was in high school a movie came out called Trainspotting. It was about a group of young Scottish men and how they dealt with drug addiction. The man character gives a great speech about “choosing life”. He gives it at the beginning of the movie with bitterness towards the idea of a regular life. It is too mundane and he prefers the life of a heroine user. By the end of the film he gives the same speech, but differently. He walks away from his addiction and is smiling, indicating that what he once thought was mundane is actually worth living for.
In the speech he talks about choosing things like having a family, a career, a home, and a future. These things may seem like normal everyday things that every person chooses, but we still freely choose them. That is why we need to keep our hearts and minds in line with Christ. The decisions we make are important and we need to choose life, but with his guidance.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore, you shall choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding closely to Him; for He is your life [your good life, your abundant life, your fulfillment] and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord promised (swore) to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
I ran across this scripture when I was researching free will. It reminded me of Trainspotting and that is why I referenced the film. In the movie the characters are always walking a slippery slope of choices, but their choices are never God centered choices. Every choice they make is self-centered in some way.
God doesn’t leave us to make choices on our own, though. We can listen for his voice and obey. He will guide us if we trust him. Sometimes we will need to be more independent. He is not going to hold our hand for every decision, but he will always help with the big ones. He will never leave you on your own with the big ones. And if you don’t hear from him on a big decision, maybe it just isn’t as big as you think it is.
THE COST OF FREEDOM
“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them—but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that he hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings we would be like, the more, we shall see His wisdom.”
—C.S. Lewis from “The Trouble with “X”” God in the Dock
The entire reason I began writing today was because of this quote from C.S. Lewis. The part that stands out to me is “with all its risks”. That impacted the way I saw our free will. I knew we had free will, but never thought of the risk that God makes be letting us make our own decisions.
How incredibly hard it must be for God to stand aside and let us make poor choices? How difficult it must have been to watch Adam and Eve break his only command? How hard must it be for God when we don’t ask for his council? I am not perfect and I have made a lot of poor choices in my life, despite them God has never given up on me.
So, my takeaway is that I am happy that we do have a choice. That God has taken this incredibly huge risk on us. He allows us to choose. Like in Deuteronomy 30, he wants us to choose life by obeying his voice and holding close to him. Of course, that does get hard sometimes, but we can rest in the knowledge that God will be there to pick us up when we make those poor decisions. That no matter what, he is willing to guide us and show us his will. It is amazing to me that he will never get tired of this. He has chosen the risk of letting all of us have free will and we need to honor that by obeying his will.