It has taken me a quite a while to grasp this concept but I think I have finally taken hold of it. I hope I can easily share it with you at this early hour of 4 a.m. on May 22, 2010.
The God who created us and put us on this planet loves us so much that He desires us to love Him freely. However, in order for this to happen, He must be willing to allow us to go against Him and His ways. For instance, He has given us rules and guidelines by which we are to live in this world, and ten of them are found in Exodus 20. They are called the 10 Commandments. One of these tells us to worship no other gods but Him. So if we worship only this God who created the whole universe out of nothing, He will be pleased and we would not be sinning in that. But will God allow us to choose to worship another god or ourselves in place of the one true God? Yes. He loves us so much that He will allow us to turn our backs on Him. Does He want it to happen? Of course not. But He is willing to allow it to happen. Will God allow us to choose to have sex with someone other than our husband or wife? The answer is yes. Will God allow us to choose to disobey and dishonor our parents? Again the answer is yes. He loves us so much that He allows His creation to go against Him. He does not force us to love Him or to do His will. He also doesn’t force us to obey.
This is where His people come in. Christ’s followers are called to speak the truth in love. I believe this means that we must tell – sometimes warn – people what the truth is. If these people choose to follow Him, that is between them and God. Should they choose to not follow God and His ways, that again is between them and God. Even if they do not believe in Him, it is their free will to choose. Are you willing to love as much as God does or at least strive to do that? We are called to love. In other words, we need to tell people the truth and leave it up to them to believe or not. If they choose not to believe, the Lord will deal with them, be it ever so severely.
This also goes for our own Christian brothers and sisters. You can tell people the truth about helping the poor and poverty stricken, but once you force people to help them, you have stepped over the line. A great example of this is the account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They sold a piece of property and said they gave all of the money from the sale to the church. A quick check on the context of this passage shows us that believers who were a part of The Way began to sell their possessions and goods for the betterment of the whole body of Christ (the Church). You will notice that they were not forced to do this and were not required to give everything to the group, for Peter says in Acts 5:3-4, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Here’s a little more background: Ananias and his wife Sapphira owned a field and sold it. They told the church that they gave them all of the money from the sale when they had actually kept part of the sale for themselves. So their sin wasn’t that they kept part of the money. In fact, Peter never mentions that! What does he mention? That they lied to the Holy Spirit.
I think it is also easy to deduce that part of their sin was their desire to receive praise and glory that they did not deserve. If they had given all of their money, I think they would have received a blessing. If they had given only part of the money and had been honest and actually told the truth, I think they still would have been fine. The point is that God is the judge, not humans. Their consequence for lying was instant death. This helps us to see that the choices we make have consequences – good and bad. We can either choose to live God’s way or not. And our choices affect more than just us; they affect others as well, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. But forcing people to follow God’s ways is not freedom at all.
Let me try to further illustrate this point. I currently have a daughter who is two years old. My wife and I love her very much. She has her own will to do what she likes and will do what she pleases. As her father, though, I would be doing a terrible job raising her if I did not correct her actions now that are sinful. For instance, if I didn’t expect and require first time obedience from her now, what would I be teaching her even at this young age? I would be teaching her that she does not need to obey the first time I tell her to do something. If I tell her to stop running somewhere, and after the third or fourth time she finally obeys, why would this be a big deal? If she does not receive a consequence at this young age for disobeying the first time, she may run out into the street and get injured because she was taught that she needed to only obey after the third or fourth time. And if she isn’t corrected at this young age, many of us know the teen years would be quite a challenge.
This is why being a parent is such a huge responsibility. We are to train our children not only to accept Jesus as Savior, but also teach them to follow Jesus Christ and hear and obey the Holy Spirit.
I want to challenge you to not just be saved in the name of Jesus Christ, but also to be hearers and doers of the Word of God. We need to obey God’s leading. You need to obey God’s leading. Hear the Holy Spirit and obey. If you’ve messed up, our heavenly Father is there to welcome you back into His loving arms.
For further study on this subject, read Luke 15:11-32 and James 2:1-26.